(Newport, RI 3/27/12) Former State Senator Leonidas P. Raptakis and the Newport Hellenic community hosted a celebration of Greek Independence Day at the Rhode Island State House, bringing together state leaders and members of the Hellenic community to recognize the 191st anniversary of Greece’s independence.  This is the twentieth consecutive such celebration of the event, which included the Greek Consul General Ilias Fotopoulos being introduced in the Governor’s State Room, the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Rhode Island Senate as part of the day’s celebration.

Rhode Island’s Governor, Lincoln Chafee took part in the ceremony welcoming the many guests who came to the State House to enjoy the event which featured poems, readings and songs celebrating Greek history and the nation’s commitment to democracy and freedom.

“This event is a wonderful expression of our strong Greek community in Rhode Island and the strong connection between this state known for its commitment to independence and the nation which was the birthplace of democracy,” said Raptakis.  “We are grateful to the Governor, the Senate President and House Speaker Gordon Fox who have once again come together in the State House for this special celebration.”

            As part of the main program in the Governor’s State Room, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston delivered both the invocation and the benediction and the audience joined together to sing the American and Greek national anthems.  Alexandra Nichols and Aris Degaitas from the Greek School in Cranston, recited the poem “Yearning to Breathe Free”, Nick Lehourites and George Mastin from the Greek School in Pawtucket recited the poem “Ta Ellinopoula”, Sofia Stefanopoulos from the Greek School in Newport recited “The Heroine Bouboulina”, Melina Johnson also from Newport recited the reading “Markos Botsaris”, Constantine George Coclin, Nick Lambros and Demitri Petrou from the Greek School in Cranston recited “March 25th, 1821”, and Athanasia Dafulas, Lily Carlson and Ron George Purcell from the Greek School in Pawtucket recited “The 25th of March”.  All the children from the Rhode Island Greek School’s sang the song “Ta Kleftopoula” for the Governor and presented him with a book on the History of Constantinople as a gift.

Father George Economou of St.Spyridon Church in Newport gave the invocation in the Rhode House of Representatives chamber while Metropolitan Methodios gave the invocation in the Senate chambers.

 Both the House and Senate passed resolutions commemorating the Feast of the Annunciation and the 191st Anniversary of Greece’s independence and highlighting the continuing bonds between both the United States and Greece. The resolutions also stressed the refusal of the government of Turkey to recognize the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The President of the Federation Hellenic Societies of New England, Themistoklis Karatzas also gave greetings in the Governors State Room and at the reception that followed at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.