Greeks of the world unite in Salonica

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios’s blessing of the opening of the 4th Conference of the World Council for Hellenes Abroad (SAE) in Thessaloniki yesterday marked the end of the chill that had characterized relations between the patriarchate and the SAE since the latter’s founding. Vartholomaios, in his blessing, emphasized unity and the importance of systematic cooperation between the patriarchate and Greeks overseas. The patriarchate in Istanbul had taken a dim view of the founding of the SAE, which represents 7 million diaspora Greeks, fearing it would cast doubts on the primacy of the Orthodox Church in rallying the Greeks of the diaspora. Systematic cooperation will bear rich fruit. That is why dialogue must be continuous. There has to be a common vision, as far as possible, in order to provide foundations for cultural ideals and the open, ecumenical nature of Hellenism and Orthodoxy, said the patriarch at the opening session. Vartholomaios arrived directly from a visit to St. Catherine’s monastery on Mt. Sinai, where he attended events marking the saint’s day. Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens gave the patriarch a warm welcome at Thessaloniki airport Saturday night, assuring him of his respect, devotion and love for the patriarchate which he called the mother of Orthodox Churches. This indicated a warming of ties after the patriarchate angrily rejected a series of letters this summer in which the leader of the Church of Greece appeared to want to raise his status at the expense of the patriarchate. Addressing the conference, Christodoulos said The only way to keep Hellenism alive in this age of globalization and mixed marriages is to make it walk and then run. Also present were Patriarch Petros of Alexandria, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania and representatives of the Jerusalem and American archbishops who were unable to attend. SAE President Andrew Athens said Greeks living overseas would be proud to serve as volunteers for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Athens 2004 Managing Director Yiannis Spanoudakis told the conference that 150,000 to 200,000 applicants would be needed in order to choose a total of 60,000 volunteers required for the successful running of the Games. Half of these would need to be skilled, he said. -Thessaloniki Chamber of Industry and Commerce elects a new board.

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