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Rhode Island Celebrates Greek Independence Day and Annunciation Feast

PROVIDENCE, RI – State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis and Rhode Island’s Hellenic communities hosted a celebration of Greek Independence Day at the Rhode Island State House on March 22, bringing together state leaders and members of all three Hellenic communities from Cranston, Newport, and Pawtucket to recognize the 201st anniversary of Greece’s independence. The event included the Consul General of the Hellenic Republic Stratos Efthymiou and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who also met privately with Governor Dan McKee, Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Rhode Island House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, and Representative Joseph McNamara prior to the commencement of the program. This is Archbishop Elpidophoros’ first trip to Rhode Island, and it has been more than 30 years since an Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has officially visited the State of Rhode Island.

Throughout the day, Greece’s national flag was flown in four different areas of the Rhode Island State House: the Governor’s State Room, the Senate chamber, the House of Representatives chamber, and atop the State House building. Following the ceremonies in the House chamber, a program was held in the Governor’s State Room, with remarks offered by Consul General Efthymiou, Governor McKee, Lt. Governor Matos, Attorney General Peter Neronha, and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. Rhode Island State Police Captain Ernest McKenney and Providence Chief of Police Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr., both of Hellenic descent, also gave remarks. Also speaking was President of Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of New England Vasilis Kafkas. In attendance were George Gialtourdis, President of the Pontian Society Panagia Soumela of Boston, and representing the Hellenic Navy was the wife of Captain Michail D. Giakoumakis, Mrs. Maria Vasilaki. Representing parish councils were President George Foussekis of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, President Theofanos Markos of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and President Panayiotis Petrou of the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.

Rhode Island State Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis addressing the 201st Greek Independence Day celebration with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America at left and Governor Daniel McKee and Lt. Governor Sabina Matos at right. Photo: Courtesy of Sen. Raptakis’ office

The state’s Congressional delegation sent letters, and Erin Arcan, representing United States Senator Jack Reed, read a congratulatory greeting. This year’s co-emcee was Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church parishioner Dr. Savvas Rougas.

“This event is always a wonderful expression of our strong Hellenic community in Rhode Island and the strong connection between this state, known for its commitment to independence, and the nation which was the birthplace of democracy,” said Raptakis. “I want to thank the Senate and House for hosting this event, passing resolutions during their sessions yesterday, and consistently supporting Hellenic issues over the years. I am grateful to all of the legislators and general officers who attended again this year, coming together in the Rhode Island State House to take part in this special celebration, including the many Hellenes who participated from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Our community shares in the values of Greece.”

As part of the main program in the Governor’s State Room, Archbishop Elpidophoros delivered the invocation and benediction. Fr. Andrew George and Fr. Nicholas Lanzourakis from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Cranston, Fr. Philip Zymaris of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Pawtucket, along with Fr. George Economou, participated in the program. The audience joined together to sing the National Anthems of the United States and the Hellenic Republic.

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Greek Language teachers Koula Rougas and Ioanna Andreopoulou, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church teachers Panayiota Vastis, Stavroula Papavasileiou, and Sophia Augoustakis, and St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church teachers Eleni Anagnostopoulos and Loula Eliopoulos facilitated the children’s program from their respective communities.

From the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Cranston, students Mary Koushiappas and Michael Koushiappas recited the poem “My Country” and students Konstantinos Marantidis, Agoritsa Liakos, Alexander Taxiarchos, and Konstantinos Rougas recited the poem “The Annunciation of Virgin Mary and Freedom.”

From the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Pawtucket, students Theodore Cambos, Haralambos Papavasileiou, Andreas Dokos and Euaggelos Dokos recited the poem “By My Flag” and students Gabriella Plezia, Alexa Plezia recited the poem “Bouboulina.”

From St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Newport, student Mihalis Haralambidis recited the poem “The Flag” and student Melina Johnson sang “Greek Flag Caressed by the Wind of Liberty.”

Children from all three Greek Orthodox parishes sang together the song “O Thourios” for His Eminence.

Both the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions commemorating the Feast of the Annunciation and the 201st anniversary of Greece’s independence and highlighting the continuing bonds between both the United States and Greece. Most importantly, the resolution recognized the continuing support by the United States to the people of Greece, especially during the economic crisis that has plagued the country the last several years, and the expanding economic, energy partnership and military cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. A reception, sponsored by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, was held in Cranston following the program at the State House.

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