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Rhode Island Celebrates Greek Independence Day and the Annunciation

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-33 Coventry and West Greenwich) , the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Cranston, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Pawtucket, and the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church of Newport, and Rhode Island’s Hellenic communities hosted a celebration of Greek Independence Day at the Rhode Island State House on March 28, bringing together federal and state leaders, mayors, and members of all three Hellenic communities to recognize the 203rd anniversary of Greece’s independence and the Feast of the Annunciation.

Throughout the week leading to the Statehouse celebration, Greece’s national flag was flown at the City Halls of Cranston, Newport, and Pawtucket, RI, where the Mayors Kenneth Hopkins, Xay Khamsyvoravong, Donald Grebien respectively presented their traditional proclamations honoring the Greek communities. During the celebration, Greece’s national flag was flown in four different areas of the Rhode Island State House, the State Library, the Senate chamber, the House chamber, and atop the State House building. The State House dome was lit in blue and white in honor of Greek Independence Day for the week, a tradition started in 1993 by State Sen. Raptakis. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio met in the Senate President’s office to discuss many related issues before the celebration with Consul General of Greece in Boston Symeon Tegos, State Sen. Raptakis, Newport Councilman Charles Holder, Fr. Andrew George, Fr. Nicholas Lanzourakis from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Cranston, Fr. Aaron Walker from the St. Spyridon Newport along with Parish Council President Elaine Holder. Also in attendance from the Federation of Hellenic Societies of New England were Vice President George Panagiotopoulos and General Secretary Martha Panagiotopoulos.

Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis leading the Pledge of Allegiance with St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church Parish Council President Elaine Holder and Krystina Nicolopoulos Cesario from the RI State House internship office in the background. Photo: Courtesy of Sen. Raptakis

Joseph Shekarchi Speaker of the House of Representatives also met with Consul General Tegos as well as Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman (D-45, Cumberland and Lincoln) separately earlier in the afternoon to discuss issues of concern between the State of Rhode Island and Greece. In the Rhode Island Senate Chamber, the invocation was given by Fr. Walker, the Pledge of Allegiance by State Sen. Raptakis, and there was a reading of Senate Resolution S2924, while Consul General Tegos was recognized for his service to the Hellenic Republic. In the Rhode Island House of Representatives Fr. Lanzourakis along with Fr. George gave the invocation. This year’s House resolution H8113 was sponsored once again by Representative Joseph McNamara (D-19 Cranston and Warwick). Both House and Senate resolutions commemorate the Feast of the Annunciation and the 203rd anniversary of Greece’s Independence, emphasizing the continuing bonds between the United States and Greece. Both State Senate and House resolutions also recognized the continuing support by the United States to the people of Greece especially the historic ties between the nations as well as expanding economic and defense cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean. The resolutions underscore the strength of the bilateral relationship and shared commitment as NATO Allies to democracy, peace, and prosperity.

Following the ceremonies in the Senate and House chambers, as part of the main program in the State Library Room, the invocation and benediction were delivered by  Fr. Walker and the audience joined together to sing the National Anthems of the United States and the Hellenic Republic.

Remarks were offered by the entire Rhode Island Congressional delegation, United States Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Congressmen Seth Magazine (D- District 2) and Gabe Amo (D-District 1), Lt Governor Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Gregg Amore, General Treasurer James Diossa,  Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-4, North Providence and Providence), Speaker of the House of Representatives Joseph Shekarchi (D-23 Warwick) State Senator Jessica de la Cruz (R-23 Burrilville, Glocester and North Smithfield), Mayors of the cities of Newport Xay  Khamsyvoravong and Pawtucket  Donald Grebien.

Participants in the 203rd anniversary of Greek Independence celebration held in the Rhode Island State Library Room. Photo: Courtesy of Sen. Raptakis

Governor Dan McKee was represented by Pastor Chris Abhulime, who offered greetings while Attorney General Peter Neronha and Cranston Mayor Kenneth Hopkins who could not attend sent letters which were read during the program. Town of Johnston Police Officer Charles Psilopoulos from the Town of Johnston, RI, was honored for his service to his community. Hellenes Tino Massimo from the Speaker’s office and Krystina Nicolopoulos Cesario from the RI State House internship office were also recognized for their state service. Also in attendance was author John Lysikatos of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and Anna Kyriakdes, coordinator of the Newport Hellenic Dancers.

Consul General Tegos, representing the Hellenic Republic, gave the keynote greetings. Steven Kyriakides was this year’s co-emcee from the host community of St. Spyridon Newport.

Raptakis noted that “for over 31 years, this event has been held in the General Assembly chambers and the State Room and it 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.”

Raptakis praised Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation: “I want to thank our entire Rhode Island Congressional delegation which has the best voting record when it comes to supporting the many Hellenic issues and attended to voice their support for Greece and Cyprus.”

Leaders of Rhode Island’s Greek community, Consul General of Greece in Boston Symeon Tegos meeting with Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senator Leonidas Raptakis in the Senate President’s office before the celebration. Photo: Courtesy of Sen. Raptakis

Raptakis also went on to thank all his colleagues in government who attended and celebrated the heroes of 1821and Rhode Island’s Hellenic community for its contributions to the State of Rhode Island. Federation Vice President Panagiotopoulos also offered his sincere congratulations to the Hellenic community of Rhode Island. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Greek Language teachers Ioanna Andreopoulou and Koula Rougas, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church Principal Panayiota Vastis, Greek language teachers Stavroula Papavasileiou and Sophia Augoustakis, St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church teachers Eleni Anagnostopoulos and Loula Eliopoulos facilitated the children’s program from their respective communities. Parish Council Presidents Theofanos Markos of Annunciation and Elaine Holder of St. Spyridon, and Assumption Vice President Nicholas Vellopoulos along with AHEPA Chapter Presidents George Coclin of Annunciation Church and Leon Panteleos of St. Spyridon were in attendance.

Agoritsa Liakou, Margarita Trikouli and Nicholas Rougas students from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church recited a poem that praises Freedom. Konstantinos Marantidis, Antonia Chrysanthopoulou and Konstantinos Rougas recited the poem ‘Τhe Secret School’ a poem that is about how secret schools in the churches saved the Greek language and the soul of the nation. Harris Papavasiliou, Harris Stathakis, and Andreas Dokos of Assumption Pawtucket recited the poem ‘Freedom or Death’ and  Dimitris Kosivas recited ‘Our Flag.’ George Daskas from St. Spyridon recited the poem ‘Immortal Greece’, and Miltiadis Tzouvaras recited the poem ‘The City of Constantinople Was Conquered.’ Children from all three Greek churches joined together and sang ‘The Evzones of Saint Sophia.’ The event concluded with a group photo in the State Library and the Capitol Rotunda with many of the dignitaries, participants, family and friends.

A reception followed, sponsored by the St. Spyridon of Newport and held in Cranston with Parish Council member Peter Petrou as the emcee of the program which included a performance by the Newport Hellenic Dancers.

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