By Joseph C. Keane
The Hellenic Cultural Commission (HCC) is a formation of the AHEPA Educational Foundation. At the Supreme Convention in New Orleans this year, the HCC offered a spectacular, very relevant double header. The “Apostolic Pilgrimage” documentary of Patriarch Bartholomew’s and Pope Francis’s joint visit to the Holy Sepulcher was the initial presentation. Their visit to the Holy Land commemorated the initial historic visit 50 years earlier by Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. Both visits harken back to the Apostles Andrew and Peter, who were truly brothers and the bedrock pillars of the early church. There was real respect, affection, and true love that the current hierarchs demonstrated for each other. When you hear their Easter messages (both in English), it becomes apparent that re-unification is not only a possibility but a distinct probability. Their Easter meeting was a great second step and their journey continues with a planned papal visit to the Phanar, the seat of the Patriarch in Constantinople. This long anticipated healing of ancient wounds, that has long been relegated to a “not in my lifetime status,” may truly be accomplished in their lifetimes. May the Good Lord grant them long and healthy lives!
The second half of this highly relevant and topical seminar featured Gene Rossides, the Founder of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, under President Nixon. His recently published book “Kissinger and Cyprus – a study in lawlessness,” is intended to refocus attention on the unlawful invasion and subsequent partition of Cyprus exactly 40 years ago. He was there – the message is clear. Kissinger manipulated and encouraged the Turkish invasion and by his personal intervention and inaction eliminated any incentive for Turkey to seek a reasonable solution. During a spirited and educational exchange, Gene’s message and the role of the AHI and the AHEPA became clear. The AHI is an authorized lobbying organization for issues of importance to Americans of Greek descent and the more than 16,000 AHEPANS can and should support these issues individually. Issues like Cyprus and religious freedom in Turkey. We learned that AHEPA as an organization cannot lobby in support of these same issue without risking the loss of its tax exempt status, but what it can and should do is encourage members individually to inform their elected representatives to support these extremely important issues.