WASHINGTON, DC – As part of his visit to the United States, Elder Ephraim, Abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece, and his entourage, visited the White House, where they had high-level discussion on matters of religious freedom with Sarah Makin, Deputy Assistant to the PresidentDirector of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, Laura Gabriel Cowan, Special Advisor for Europe and Russia to the Vice President, and Eleni Roumel Deputy Counsel to the Vice President.
The White House officials extended a warm welcome to Abbot Ephraim,who spoke extensively about the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the need of the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, and the destruction by the Turks of churches, shrines, and monastery in his native Cyprus.
He asked that the United States continue to increase its efforts to protect Christian populations throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East.
Ephraim made extensive reference to Mt. Athos: its history, religious and cultural treasures, rejuvenation with young and veteran monks, and tradition of hospitality, noting that they welcome over 300,000 visitors per year.
The Vatopaidi Monastery is comprised of a Monastic Brotherhood consisting of 120 monks from 10 different countries.
After the meeting and a tour of the White House, Ephraim met with State Department official Eugene Fishel, Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback, and Director of the U.S. Commission of International Law and Policy Religious Freedom Commission Elizabeth Cassidy, and her staff.
Also, Judge Gregory Katsas of the nation’s second-highest court, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, met with Ephraim. Judge Katsas, a Greek-American, expressed great interest in learning about Mt. Athos, and Ephraim invited him to visit. He promised he would do so.