President Obama Welcomes Archbishop, Hosts March 25 Celebration at the White House

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama welcomed Archbishop Demetrios of America and the Greek-American Orthodox community to the White House yesterday and hosted a celebration and reception for March 25th, the 188th Anniversary of the start of the Greek War for Independence of 1821.

The President received the Archbishop in private and along with Vice-President Joseph Biden had a very cordial and open conversation. Later they all came into the East Room of the White House, where for the first time in the history of this event, the Vice-President introduced Archbishop Demetrios and said: “I speak on behalf of every American, Greek or otherwise, who cares about the union we share when I say that, Archbishop, we are truly lucky to have you here. And I feel and the President feels fortunate to be able to call you a friend, as well as a leading leader of one of the great faiths in the world.”

Archbishop Demetrios in talking the podium thanked the Vice-President, and in addressing the President and the guests of the event congratulated President Obama on his election and thanked him for the “kind and personal” invitation to a “truly Presidential celebration.” The Archbishop paid tribute to those who fought and died for freedom and liberty during the Greek War of Independence of 1821.

Subsequently, the Archbishop asked the President’s special assistance “… in resolving chronic injustices related to issues of religious freedom, human rights, peaceful coexistence, democratic rule of law, and the pursuit of happiness,” naming three unresolved issues relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Cyprus and the name of FYROM. “We are confident, Mr. President, that you, following the brilliant example of Alexander the Great, will be able to cut the Gordian knot of these unresolved issues, and by so doing, enhance peace and reconciliation among the peoples included and involved,” said His Eminence and concluded with the following:

“As you continue to lead our blessed United States, the world’s greatest democracy, please know, Mr. President that our fervent prayers are with you, our First Lady Michelle, and your daughters Sasha and Malia. We thank you once again for the great honor of this noble celebration of March 25th 1821.”

President Barack Obama in his response thanked the Archbishop for the favorable comparison to Alexander the Great and said it was a great honor to be with His Eminence “as we mark the 10th anniversary” since his enthronement. The President making the case for the long and historic ties between the United States and Greece mentioned the role the Hellenic ideals have played in establishing the American democracy.

At the conclusion of the program President Obama and the Vice-President greeted many of the attendees and the reception continued in a festive atmosphere. The Archdiocesan Metropolitan Youth Choir performed for the second year at the White House event, songs related to the occasion. President Obama asked to see the children of the choir greeted them warmly and was photographed with them.

The morning of March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, Archbishop Demetrios presided at the Divine Liturgy in Washington’s St. Sophia Cathedral, followed by the service of Doxology. In the evening and following the White House event he attended the reception hosted by the Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros Mallias at the Greek Embassy. Minister of Justice Nikolaos Dendias represented the Greek Government at these events.