Local, global Greeks

As 600 delegates from Greek organizations in 70 countries gathered in Thessaloniki yesterday to discuss next year’s Olympic Games and the future of global Hellenism, the focus was on the need for an ecumenical rather than a locally oriented Greek spirit. President Costis Stephanopoulos opened the Fifth World Convention of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, a body set up to link the millions of Greeks of the diaspora with each other and with Greece, with an appeal for support for the patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem. This was seen in Greece as a delicate expression of support for Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios in his dispute with Archbishop Christodoulos, leader of the autocephalous Church of Greece, over jurisdiction over 36 Greek bishoprics. Vartholomaios, however, in a message read by a representative, was not as subtle, speaking strongly in favor of an ecumenical Greece rather than one that sets limits according to region. This was an apparent criticism of Christodoulos for a recent outburst in which he described Turks as «barbarians.» «The true expression of Greeks everywhere is found in ecumenism,» said Vartholomaios, whose base is in Istanbul, as Constantinople was renamed after its fall to the Turks in 1453. «The overly parochial spirit sought by some centers at the expense of others is catastrophic, like a cancerous tumor that leads to death,» the patriarch said. Christodoulos will speak tomorrow. President Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and other Greek political leaders called on the Greeks of the diaspora to spread the message that Greece is a modern country and capable of staging the best and safest Olympics. «The first aim has to be to project the face of modern Greece to the whole world, to project all that we have achieved and the potential which still lies before us,» Stephanopoulos said. Simitis spoke of the «many» achievements of his government, saying they were achieved in a short time and that to succeed he had to clash with «conservative mentalities» and deal with political cost and demagoguery. New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis told the Greeks of the diaspora: «You often make us proud with your achievements, your distinctions and the recognition of your efforts. We too must make you proud. We must hear your voice more often.»