ATHENS – On a glorious spring evening in Athens on June 18 in the delightful garden of the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, the new ambassador George J. Tsunis hosted a reception for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. An Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ambassador was clearly pleased and honored that His All-Holiness and Tsunis’ fellow archons and Greek-Americans were among his first guests.
The Archons were in Athens as part of a journey to Greece, Constantinople, and Pontos led by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America – who had returned to the United States. The guests at the reception included hierarchs and other officials of the Ecumenical throne and the Church of Greece, diplomats, and ministers of the Mitsotakis government. The notables also included Antonis H. Diamataris, Advisor to the Publishers of the National Herald, and his wife Litsa, and the publisher of the Greek language edition, Eraklis Diamataris.
Ambassador Tsunis warmly welcomed the guests, spotlighting, among others, Dr. Anthony Limberakis, the National Commander of the Archons, and leaders of the Jewish and Islamic communities of Greece, saying “when you are with His All-Holiness, people of all faiths are always welcome… the Ecumenical Patriarch has devoted his life to making the world a better place. He has devoted himself to a message of tolerance, holding regular dialogues of interfaith tolerance and cooperation with Christians, Muslims, and Jews.”
Bartholomew is also known around the world as ‘The Green Patriarch’, and Tsunis reminded that “His All-Holiness also works to preserve our beautiful planet” through his efforts in support of environmental causes, noting also that the Patriarch also revealed his compassion through his visit to refugee camps on Lesvos with Pope Francis, “to call attention to those who are most vulnerable in our society.”
Turning to the chaotic world stage, the Ambassador declared, “today we are at a critical juncture. We are facing unprecedented challenges to our values. We are at the forefront of a struggle between democratic values and the forces of tyranny and Authoritarianism,” words later echoed by the Patriarch. Tsunis continued, “this is about the type of world we want to live in and…leave for our children. Our unity is more important now than ever before… We have an obligation to stand united against the forces of darkness and those who wish to overturn the international rules-based order on which our collective security and prosperity has been based,” and against countries “that decide they are going to invade their neighbors for no reason whatsoever.”
“Your All-Holiness,” Tsunis said with reverence and warmth, “we need you now more than ever… and we are thrilled to recognize and honor you tonight and to underscore the United States’ unwavering friendship with the Greek Orthodox church. Congratulations on 30 years of remarkably successful ministry!”
Before bringing the Patriarch to the podium, Tsunis announced a contribution in honor of the former to the campaign to plants trees on the island of Evia that was devastated by last year’s wildfires.
The Patriarch greeted the guests by saying “I offer you warm and heartfelt greetings of love to all of you. It is a special joy and privilege to be here among you.” After citing the Archons and other organizations present, he continued: “It would be a truism if not an understatement, to claim that we live in complex and challenging time,” and then urged the many influential man and women in attendance, that they not pursue only their interest, “but rather and especially, to support and sustain those whom Christ describes as ‘the least of our brothers and sisters… in whom we should recognize Christ himself.”
The Gospels, he added, urge “us to reach out to the more vulnerable in our world, whether among us and close to us, or else, known and unknown to us throughout the world, in an effort to share our personal gifts – and the planet’s resources. Our relationship to this world determines our relationship with other people, and it ultimately defines our relationship to God. This is why for the last 30 years, we have repeatedly and persistently underlined that addressing the environmental crisis is a fundamental way of responding to the core challenges of our world and or our age. The recent pandemic of COVID-19 reminded us, in a painful yet poignant way, of the intimate and inseparable interconnection between people and planet, between science and religion, and indeed, between Heaven and Earth.”
The Patriarch ended on an optimistic note: “Despite the complicated and demanding nature of our times, we remain optimistic that the light and Life of Christ are brighter than any darkness in the world. We remain confident that the Holy Spirit….will continue to “blow where it will,” transcending all anthropogenic obstacles and penetrating all human walls of separation, isolation and exclusion, orienting our whole to its eternal destination.”
The earthly and heavenly optimism he shared was accompanied by a responsibility: “Divine Grace requires human participation and contribution. We must , all of us – and particularly those endowed with an abundance of gifts from our Creator, become co-workers of God, as St. Paul wrote. We cannot be passive observers… we must be active participants.”
Patriarch Bartholomew closed by thanking ambassador Tsunis’ for the reception and asking God’s blessing for his tenure.
ATHENS - As headquarters of the European Union’s Red Sea Naval Mission to keep Yemeni Houthis from attacking ships - led by Commodore Vasileios Gryparis - Greece also is looking to become a key player in aiding security of the 27 member state bloc.
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