ATHENS – The annual AHEPA Family Leadership Excursion recently led by AHEPA Supreme President George Loucas to Athens, Cyprus, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople included briefings with officials during a period of crises in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Archdiocese of America, and included expressions of appreciation for support from the largest Greek-American organization.
Loucas told The National Herald that, “we have a great group of about 25 people this year,” which included Executive Director Basil Mossaides, Grand President of the Daughters of Penelope Demi Thomas, Supreme Secretary George Horiates, President of the Sons of Pericles Gregory Vourloumis, Grand President of Maids of Athena Tatiana Tsaprailis, and various other members and officers including District 5 Governor Zenon Christodoulou of New Jersey, and Past Supreme Counselor Greg Stamos.
At the Phanar the group participated in services at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George and was invited to meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew where the challenges and opportunities facing the Archdiocese of America were discussed during the weekend when Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa was elected Archbishop of America.
“In Cyprus,” Loucas said, “we had one of the premier events in recent years where we honored Philp Christopher” – New York based industrialist, philanthropist, and community leader who was born in occupied Cyprus – “with the Socrates Award.”
The group also had a private audience with President Anastasiades, where, Loucas said, “we discussed the current issues and re-committed ourselves to standing by Cyprus. We adopted the term the President is applying to Turkey’s violations of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – calling it a second invasion.” AHEPA used that term in the meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Judith Garber. “We said the continued aggression of Turkey must be addressed or it will just continue,” said Loucas. They also discussed the tripartite relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
During a meeting in Athens, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt in Athens also emphasized the importance of “developing the U.S. bond with the tripartite partnership that is moving forward,” Loucas said. AHEPA participated, along with the American Hellenic Institute, last December in a B’nai B’rith conference in Israel about the partnership.
“Pyatt specifically asked us to help oil that machine,” by following up on the success of the U.S. pavilion at the 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair and helping develop business in Greece and the U.S. commercial presence in Greece.”
Again in the context of growing people-to-people contacts between the United States and Greece which Pyatt emphasizes, there were announcements during the visit of more AHEPA donations to the Evangelismos hospital, in this case, $200,000 for burn sub-unit, in recognition of the hospital’s outstanding job treating 88 victims of last year’s fires in Mati.
Loucas was looking forward to the delegation’s visit to the U.S. military facilities at Souda Bay in Crete. “We are going to be meeting with our U.S. forces to show our solidarity,” with Greece and Cyprus in the face of Turkish threats.
The delegation were hoping to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras but Loucas was disappointed that for the third time he did not schedule a meeting with AHEPA. “I don’t believe that reflects how he feels about the Diaspora, but I am left to wonder,” Loucas said.