State Senator Leonidas (Lou) Raptakis and Rhode Island’s Hellenic communities hosted a Greek Independence Day celebration at the Rhode Island State House on March 22nd.
Raptakis, who serves as president of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIA), emceed the Greek Independence Day celebration that brought together state leaders and members of all three Hellenic communities from Cranston, Newport, and Pawtucket to recognize the 201st anniversary of Greece’s independence.
WHIA consists of current and former elected members of legislatures of Greek descent in non-Greek speaking countries. WHIA aims to foster communication and promote relations between these legislators and the Hellenic Parliament. WHIA also hopes to strengthen relations of friendship and cooperation with Greece and develop a common strategy in relation to issues of Greek interest by promoting the Hellenic culture and the Greek language.
Archbishop Elpidophoros attends Rhode Island’s Greek Independence Day Celebration
The Rhode Island Greek Independence Day celebration included the Consul General of the Hellenic Republic, Stratos Efthymiou, and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Archbishop met privately with Governor Dan McKee, Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Rhode Island House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, and Representative Joseph McNamara prior to the commencement of the program.
This was Archbishop Elpidophoros’ first trip to Rhode Island. It has been more than 30 years since an Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has officially visited the state.
“This event is always a wonderful expression of our strong Hellenic community in Rhode Island and the strong connection between this state, known for its commitment to independence, and the nation of Greece which was the birthplace of democracy,” said Raptakis.
Throughout the day, Greece’s national flag was flown in four different places, namely the Rhode Island State House, the Governor’s State Room, the Senate chamber, the House of Representatives chamber, and atop the State House building.
Following the ceremonies in the House chamber, a program was held in the Governor’s State Room with remarks offered by Consul General Efthymiou, Governor Dan McKee, Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, Attorney General Peter Neronha, and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. Rhode Island State Police Captain Ernest McKenney and Providence Chief of Police Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr., both of Hellenic descent, also gave remarks.
The Rhode Island State House dome was lit up in Greece’s blue and white national colors, as were Interstate Route 95 Pawtucket Bridge and the Sakonnet River Bridge for the entire week.
Also speaking was President of Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of New England, Vasilis Kafkas. In attendance was George Gialtourdis, President of the Pontian Society Panagia Soumela of Boston, while representing the Hellenic Navy was the wife of Captain Michail D. Giakoumakis, Mrs. Maria Vasilaki. Representing Parish councils were President George Foussekis of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, President Theofanos Markos of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, and President Panayiotis Petrou of the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church.
The state’s Congressional delegation sent letters, and Erin Arcan, representing United States Senator Jack Reed, read a congratulatory greeting. This year’s co-emcee was Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church parishioner, Dr. Savvas Rougas.
As part of the main program in the Governor’s State Room, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) delivered the invocation and benediction. Father Andrew George and Father Nicholas Lanzourakis from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Cranston, along with Father Philip Zymaris of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Pawtucket and Father George Economou participated in the program. The audience joined together to sing the national anthems of the United States and the Hellenic Republic.
“I want to thank the Senate and House for hosting this event, passing resolutions during their sessions yesterday, and consistently supporting Hellenic issues over the years. I am grateful to all of the legislators and general officers who attended again this year, coming together in the Rhode Island State House to take part in this special celebration, including the many Hellenes who participated from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Our community shares in the values of Greece.”
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Greek language teachers Koula Rougas and Ioanna Andreopoulou, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church teachers Panayiota Vastis, Stavroula Papavasileiou, and Sophia Augoustakis, and St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church teachers Eleni Anagnostopoulos and Loula Eliopoulos facilitated the children’s program from their respective communities.
From the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Cranston, students Mary Koushiappas and Michael Koushiappas recited the poem “My Country,” and students Konstantinos Marantidis, Agoritsa Liakos, Alexander Taxiarchos, and Konstantinos Rougas recited the poem “The Annunciation of Virgin Mary and Freedom.”
From the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church of Pawtucket, students Theodore Cambos, Haralambos Papavasileiou, Andreas Dokos, and Euaggelos Dokos recited the poem “By My Flag,” and students Gabriella Plezia and Alexa Plezia recited the poem “Bouboulina.”
From St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church of Newport, student Mihalis Haralambidis recited the poem “The Flag,” and student Melina Johnson sang “Greek Flag Carassed by the Wind of Liberty.”
Children from all three Greek Orthodox parishes sang the song “O Thourios” together for His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros.
Rhode Island Passes Resolutions for Greek Independence Day
Both the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives passed resolutions commemorating the Feast of the Annunciation and the 201st anniversary of Greece’s independence to highlight the continuing bonds between the United States and Greece.
Most importantly, the resolution recognized the continuing support of the United States for the people of Greece, especially throughout the economic crisis that has been plaguing the country for the last several years. The expanding economic and energy partnerships, as well as the military cooperation between the two nations in the eastern Mediterranean, were also highlighted. A reception, sponsored by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, was held in Cranston following the program at the State House.
The Rhode Island Greek Independence Day celebration can be seen on the link to the video courtesy of Capitol TV.