The idea for the transport of the Holy Fire by air from Jerusalem to Athens originated from a travel agent. This agent was Mr. Iakovos Economides, the owner until 2004 of a known travel agency in Syntagma Square and close friend and associate of former Patriarch of Jerusalem Irenaeus.
According to what has become known, in 1998 Mr Economides’s travel agency and then Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Athens Irenaeus cooperated to arrange for the Holy Fire to reach for the first time the Greek capital by air. Until then it arrived in Greece… by sea, one week after the Resurrection, with a ship of the Tel Aviv – Piraeus line.
Several people at the time viewed this arrangement as a type of “sponsorship” for the Holy Fire by the travel agency, that also organized pilgrimage tours to the Holy Land. Irenaeus had also secured the consent of the Greek government to cover the travel costs of an aircraft of Olympic Airways, carrying every year more than 250 people, among which government officials, from and to Israel. In fact Economides and Irenaeus, apart from the OA aircraft, had also secured an escort with men from the presidential guard, who followed the Holy Fire.
In 2002 the transfer of the Holy Fire becomes a “state affair”, as the responsibility to organize the transport falls to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the initiative of the then Deputy Minister of Hellenes Abroad, Mr. Ioannis Magriotis. The Holy Light arrives to Athens on a special flight and the OA aircraft is replaced by a Government aircraft (Embraer) which is received with honors in Athens. From Athens, it is again transferred with special flights in various dioceses across Greece.