Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades reversed an earlier decision and finally met with Archbishop Elpidophoros in New York, after the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America had issued a statement on Twitter calling for unity.
Anastasiades, whose office initially cited a “busy schedule” when he canceled a meeting with Elpidophoros earlier in the week, ended up having a meeting with the Archbishop on Saturday for about 20 minutes.
Elpidophoros had been heavily criticized by Greek and Greek Cypriot groups in the United States for attending last Monday an inauguration event of the Turkish House in New York City.
Following backlash and anger that reached Athens and Nicosia, both Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis had quickly canceled their meetings with His Eminence of the Archdiocese.
But after the Archbishop wrote on Twitter that he was “sincerely sorry for the pain I unintentionally caused among my Cypriot and Greek American brothers,” while also calling for unity, Mitsotakis met with Elpidophoros on Friday evening for about 45 minutes.
Both Nicosia and Athens said they considered the “matter closed” while Anastasiades told reporters after his meeting that “what matters most is unity in the Greek world.”
“Therefore, after the explanation, the apology by His Eminence if you will, I consider the matter closed,” Anastasiades said.
But the matter was far from closed for Greek former prime minister George Papandreou, who said he was troubled that Athens essentially forced Elpidophoros to say sorry.
'It is the leadership of this government that ought to apologize instead of pushing the Archbishop into a position where he was the one saying sorry for an ‘offence’ he never committed'
The seasoned politician argued the government’s pandering tactics and phobias were never fruitful or in the best interest of Hellenism.
“It is the leadership of this government that ought to apologize instead of pushing the Archbishop in America into a position where he was the one saying sorry for an ‘offence’ he never committed,” Papandreou said.
Greek and Greek Cypriot American groups accused Elpidophoros earlier this week of being an instrument of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and for knowingly attending a ceremony at the presence of Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
A photo-up showing Elpidophoros standing along dignitaries during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, including Erdogan and Tatar, also prompted reaction from the Armenian National Committee of America.
Critics accused Elpidophoros of failing to stand up on principle at a time when “Ankara is adopting a negative stance with regards to the Cyprus issue.”
But Elpidophoros, a Turkish citizen born in Istanbul and whose name in Greek means Hopeful, maintained his “presence at Monday’s event could never amount to recognition of a disaster, displacement, or occupation.”
“My presence has always remained on the solid path of honest and courageous dialogue for a future of peace and protection of religious freedom,” the Archbishop said.