2007-06-27 / Health Care

Spirou Holds Press Conference On Agia Sophia

BY CATHERINE TSOUNIS

Congressmember Tom Lantos, chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and Free Agia Sophia Council of America President Chris Spirou (r.). Congressmember Tom Lantos, chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and Free Agia Sophia Council of America President Chris Spirou (r.). "No government has the right to use a church that is a holy site as a tourist attraction," said Chris Spirou. "It is free for all Jewish worshippers to pray at the Wailing Wall. Moslem faithful pray in Mecca freely. We must be free. Free at last to pray in Agia Sophia. This is not a religious matter. Rather, this is a matter of human rights. It is time for all of us to support a Free Agia Sophia. I am promoting religious freedom, not religion."

Spirou, president of the Free Agia Sophia Council of America, held a press conference at the Foreign Press Association of Greece, 23 Akademias St., Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 14 at noon. Ambassador Georgiou, foreign affairs representative for the political party LAOS was among the prominent persons present. Spirou briefed members of the Foreign Press Corps in Athens as well as Greek journalists on his upcoming testimony before the Human Rights Caucus and the historic importance of the public hearing before the Congress of the United States. Spirou announced in a bilingual Greek/English conference that he has been invited by Congressmember Tom Lantos of California, chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and of the Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee, to testify before the Caucus about "Agia Sophia: A Holy Site Violated" and about the ongoing violations by the Turkish state of one of the most revered, holy sites of the Christian faith. He will present the efforts of the Free Agia Sophia Council of America to restore the great church of Agia Sophia as a functioning church of the Orthodox Christian faith and as a holy house of prayer for all Christians of the world. The public hearing on Agia Sophia will be held at the Rayburn Congressional Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Chris Spirou, president of the Free Agia Sophia Council of America. Photos Catherine Tsounis Chris Spirou, president of the Free Agia Sophia Council of America. Photos Catherine Tsounis At the press conference the flags of the European Union and Greece were displayed and a prominent poster of Agia Sophia adorned the center of the podium. This was Spirou's first bilingual public press conference. His ability to convey strong ideas in Greek and English is commendable. Spirou's sharp, analytic mind and witty humor kept everyone's attention for one hour. "I am announcing this historic meeting here in Athens," he said. "The Free Agia Sophia Council of America is non-governmental. It is a private organization of America and Europe acting together to save the Mother Church of Christianity from continued violation for 550 years. It must become a church again."

Also president of the Hellenic American Union, at 22 Massalias St. in Downtown Athens, Spirou has the foremost Greek language and computer education center in Greece. In eloquent Greek he asked rhetorically: "Why am I undertaking this battle? I have fought for human and woman rights all my life. Human rights are not the domain of the church. I did not discuss our work with the Patriarch. He is a person who is in captivity. I will be jeopardizing his position. This is not an anti-Turkish movement. Agia Sophia is a Greek Orthodox church that belongs to the faithful who have the desire to pray. I am in touch with the leaders of the Moslem world who believe Christians should pray in their holy places. I plan to meet with Moslem leaders in the United States next week."

For more information, contact Thanasis Bakolas; cellphone, 6978 736673, landline, 210- 368-0050, e-mail abakolas@hau.gr, www.freeagiasophia. us and www.freeagiasophia.eu.

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