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Greece: Independence Day Celebrations

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Greece’s 187th anniversary of the March 25th Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire was celebrated with military, security forces and school parades across the country. The anniversary coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias declared himself “confident about the future of the nation,” and added that Greek people “have so many gifts and are ready to make any sacrifice in order to ensure freedom and national independence.” Athens News Agency: Messages on March 25th Anniversary ; Secretary General of Information: About Greece, History of Modern Greece

(ATHENS NEWS AGENCY) The 187th anniversary of the March 25 Greek Revolution, which marked the start of its war of independence against Ottoman rule in 1821 and the birth of the modern Greek nation, was celebrated throughout the country on Tuesday with school parades in every town and district, as well as a grand military and security forces parade in central Athens that was held in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.Earlier, Papoulias had also attended a celebratory mass at the Athens Cathedral for the twin holidays of the Independence anniversary and the Feast of the Annunciation, both celebrated on March 25. Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronynos was unable to lead the mass following an accident that resulted in a broken ankle, for which he was being treated in hospital.On his arrival at the Cathedral, the president was received by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, Athens Prefect Dimitris Sgouros and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, among others.

Prior to the start of the parade, Papoulias deposited a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside Parliament and observed a minute’s silence in honour of the freedom fighters of 1821, after which an honour guard fired a volley of shots and cannons from Lycabettus Hill.

The president then inspected an honour guard and greeted the political, state and military leadership before taking his place on the officials’ stand to watch the parade, alongside the prime minister, the Parliament president, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and other officials.

The customary annual parade was led as always by wounded war veterans, commando troops that fought on Cyprus and the Greek Red Cross, followed by the units of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Greek Police, Fire Brigade and Coast Guard, while military and fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters flew overhead.

In statements after the end of the parade, Papoulias said the anniversary was celebrating one of the most sensational moments in Greece’s history, the decision of an unarmed and persecuted nation to rise up against an empire and create the modern Greek state. This same passion had fired Greeks during the Balkans wars and in their resistance to the forces of Fascism in 1940, and would continue to arm the people and the armed forces to repel any attempt against Greece’s territorial integrity, he added.“I am confident about the future of this nation. Of this people that have so many gifts and are ready to make any sacrifice in order to ensure freedom and national independence,” he stressed.Karamanlis, on his part, stressed that it was the struggles and sacrifices of heroes known and unknown, from 1821 until the present day, that had allowed Greece to become free, to modernise and develop and to earn its place on the international scene.Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas said the anniversary served as a reminder for the need to be vigilant and united, while PASOK leader Papandreou underlined that the values and ideals that Greeks had fought for in 1821 remained relevant today, urging all to fight for a state that respected its citizens, a political system that expressed the people and a society that restored dignity to all Greek men and women.The troops were also addressed by Karatzaferis and Defence Minister Meimarakis, who congratulated them on a flawless parade. Meimarakis additionally referred to the investments made in the Armed Forces, stressing that these were investments in peace and in people.“The Armed Forces must have that deterrent force that is required today in order to contribute, decisively through their presence, to peace and stability in the region,” he said. He also noted their contribution to society, such as their role after the disastrous fires that swept Greece last summer.A major parade by school children, scouts and ground units of the Armed Forces was held in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Margaritis Tzimas representing the government.The anniversary was also marked by Greek communities living abroad and in Cyprus, where Cyprus President Demetris Christofias congratulated Greece’s leadership and the Greek people during an event at the Greek Embassy in Nicosia, stressing that the Greek war of independence had been “one of the great revolutions of the 19th century”.Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Dimitris Rallis, on his part, referred to the ongoing Turkish occupation on Cyprus itself, saying that this had to end, and once again reiterated Greece’s steadfast support and assistance to the struggle being given by Greek-Cypriots to achieve this.In a televised address to Greek-Cypriots, he praised the recent agreement between Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat but stressed that the Turkish side had to demonstrate a constructive attitude so that negotiations for a political solution might resume.Greeks in Australia marked the anniversary with a mass at the Church of the Annunciation, the oldest Greek Orthodox church in Melbourne, and the laying of wreaths at the Shrine of Remembrance in the city. The president of the U.S. sector of the World Council of Hellenes of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Theodoros Spyropoulos, meanwhile, issued a message that highlighted the anniversary as the supreme symbol of the Greek nation’s struggle for national independence, as well as a timeless and enduring symbol for the entire world.
Photo: A general view of a military parade passing in front of Parliament in downtown Athens on Tuesday, 25 March 2008, to commemorate the 187th anniversary of Greek Independence. (ANA-MPA/MARIA MAROGIANNI)