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19 October, 2000
Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos arrived at Athens airport on Wednesday in a private plane to begin an unofficial visit to Greece.
He was received by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, the chief prelate of the Autocephalus Greek Orthodox Church, and a delegation from the Holy Synod, as well as Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Education and Religious Affairs Minister Petros Efthymiou and Deputy Foreign Minister Angeliki Laiou.
Another member of the reception committee was Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, whom the Patriarch is scheduled to meet during his visit, a number of academics and clergy.
Immediately upon his arrival, Vartholomeos warmly greeted each of the waiting Greek prelates, while he told journalists that his one-week visit would be friendly, informal and that there would be no discussion of outstanding issues in his meetings with Greece's political leaders.
Vartholomeos then left the airport for the Intercontinental hotel, where he will be staying, and for a dinner arranged by the Council of Greek-Turkish Business Cooperation at the Athens Club.
On Thursday morning he will inaugurate the Patriarchal offices in Athens at a ceremony that will be attended by Archbishop Christodoulos.
Vartholomeos' visit was described as private earlier on Wednesday by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Istanbul, which said that numerous meetings with Greece's political leadership had been added on to the original itinerary.
Among these are meetings with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, a meeting and dinner with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, a meeting with Parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, as well as meetings with the leaders of the political parties and Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The Patriarchate referred to attempts by "circles in Greece" to present obstacles to the Ecumenical Patriarch's visit, but that these had been swept away.
The same sources also stressed that Vartholomeos would definitely not become embroiled in the identity card dispute between the Greek Church and the state on whether religion should be recorded on identity cards and that he would not be making any statements, apart from the speeches and addresses at the various functions he would attend.
The Holy Synod had written to Fanar in September asking the Patriarch to postpone his visit, on the grounds that an ongoing identity-card crisis would create an "inappropriate climate."
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos attends event in memory of late PM Andreas Papandreou:
Visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos attended an event in memory of the late Prime Minister and PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou late on Wednesday night.
The Andreas Papandreou Foundation at the Goulandris Foundation in Plaka organized the event.
Addressing the event, Vartholomeos underlined the respect shown by the deceased to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and congratulated his children for their initiatives.
Also present were intellectuals, politicians and the family of Andreas Papandreou.
Source: Athens News Agency