US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt this week acknowledged the importance that Orthodoxy holds for Greek culture and the country’s people, in exclusive statements to the Orthodoxia news agency, while also attesting to Mount Athos’ significance for Orthodoxy and Washington’s standing support for the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Halki seminary.
Citing his numerous meetings with Orthodox Church hierarchs over the years, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, the veteran US diplomat added that “…Orthodoxy preserved Hellenism through Ottoman occupation and has been a key to keeping Greeks together during the economic crisis. Greek Orthodoxy also plays an important role in strengthening our people-to-people ties and connecting the Greek Diaspora to their homeland.”
The US ambassador reminded that the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew I, will arrive in the United States in the fall, the first such visit in roughly a decade, an auspicious development that comes in the wake of the enthronement of new Archbishop of America Elpidophoros.
The Patriarch’s visit and the election of a new primate for the Greek Orthodox Church of America also coincide with a more visible US diplomatic activity vis-à-vis in the wider region and contacts with Orthodox hierarchs.
For instance, US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, Samuel Brownback, held meetings in Athens, Thessaloniki and on the semi-autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos last May.
“He (Brownback) voiced strong support for closer U.S. ties with Greek Orthodoxy, including our (US) support for reopening the Halki Theological Seminary,” Pyatt said, while pointing to the high-level Greek Orthodox participation at this week’s second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington D.C., namely, Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos III.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened the sessions at the Washington conference, which was hosted by the State Department.
Asked specifically about the new Archbishop of America, who succeeded the Elder Archbishop Demetrios and was enthroned last month in New York City, Pyatt said:
“I’m very enthusiastic about the new Archbishop, as I have met him many times and understand what a great representative he is for Orthodoxy and for Greece. I know he will be a great leader for our Diaspora. He is an important force in uniting the Greek Diaspora and deepening the already strong U.S.-Greece people-to-people ties. He has already had meetings with our President, our National Security Advisor, and several top U.S. government officials, and we wish him every success as he begins his mission in the United States.”
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