Ancient Messene seeks World Heritage status

It was recently announced that Greece’s ancient Messene will be a candidate for UNESCO’s world heritage site. Ancient Messene has already been included on the nominations list of Greece that will be submitted to UNESCO in the next few days.

Ancient Messene seeks World Heritage status
View of the Odeon at Messene [Credit: ekathimerini]

Ancient Messene is one of the most important archaeological territories in Greece. The city was established by Epaminondas, a Theban general, along with his allies, the Argives on 369 B.C. The city flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman period as the capital of the Messene’s State.

The most important monuments of the archaeological site will be: the Asklepieion, the Temple of Poseidon, the Sanctuary of Demeter and the Dioskouroi, the stadium and gymnasium of Heroon, where sons of noble families were trained, as well as the Theatre of Messene, which was an exceptional building anticipating the theatres and amphitheatres of the Roman period. According to some testimonies, the theatre was not only used for performances but also as a place for political meetings.



Huawei opens major distribution centre at Cosco’s Greek Piraeus port


Huawei opens major distribution centre at Cosco's Greek Piraeus port

CHINESE technology and communication solutions giant Huawei has inaugurated a pilot distribution centre in the Greek Port of Piraeus, Xinhua reports.

The official opening of the distribution centre was held at the premises of Cosco’s subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT).

From now on, Huawei, a leading global provider of technology and communications, serving a third of the world’s population in 140 countries, will be distributing its products in Europe through Greece.

“The Huawei distribution centre strengthens Piraeus and Greece’s position on the global transportation map,” said Greek Development and Competitiveness Minister Kostis Hatzidakis.

The investment is regarded as a “confidence vote in Greece by a robust multinational company,” Mr Hatzidakis said.

Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said that the Greek government wants Pireaus to become the number one port and logistics centre in the Mediterranean.

“Until now our partnership with Cosco has been an example of how serious partners can make a big dreams come true. We are fully committed to exploiting and increasing our cooperation,” he said.

Mr Varvitsiotis said Greece is changing and the ports of Greece are becoming the new gates of European continent and EU market.

China’s ambassador to Greece Du Qiwen as well as Huawei Technologies country manager Zhou Jun and PCT chief executive Fu Chengqiu also attended the ceremony.

Greek Orthodox church nearly done with 10-year effort to paint saints


St. Mark iconography project should be completed in February

St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church

St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church in Boca Raton is wrapping up its project to paint the interior of the building with Biblical iconography. Artist Laurence Manos has been painting the saints for 10 years for the project. (Amy Beth Bennett / December 19, 2013)

At Sunday Mass, children point to the freshly painted ceiling. They crane their necks at the larger-than-life icon of Jesus Christ, offering a blessing with his right hand and holding the gospels in his left, on the colorful sanctuary dome.

This enthusiasm warms the heart of Matt Jenetopoulos, 86, a founding member of St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church. One of the goals of the church’s decade-long iconography project, after all, is to connect children to their faith.

“They respond, each in their own way,” Jenetopoulos said. “It thrills me to see they’re getting the message.”

After 15 years of planning and 10 years of painting, the church’s $2 million endeavor to fill the sanctuary with Byzantine-style portraits of the saints, ranging from John the Baptist to Herman of Alaska, is scheduled to be completed in February. For many of those years, the sanctuary has been filled with scaffolding, paint cloths and unfinished sketches, as an artist decorated the walls, the dome and almost every crevice with vivid portrayals of the Bible’s stories.

“We are following a tradition handed down centuries ago,” said the Rev. Mark Leondis, the church’s pastor for the past two and a half years. “Byzantine iconogaphy has been called ‘windows to heaven.’ It’s a glimpse of heaven on Earth.”

The Greek Orthodox Church has a rich history of painted icons, or depictions of readily recognized faces and symbols of the Bible. The icons have consistent facial expressions, symbols and colors, including gold as a representation of heaven, blue for human beings and red for divinity.

The icons and architecture are similar in all Eastern Orthodox churches, including Russian, Serbian and Polish. Orthodoxy split off from Roman Catholicism in 1054 during the Great Schism, when Pope Leo IX excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople because of several disputes, including conflicts over papal supremacy and the Nicene Creed.

Artist Laurence Manos of New Jersey was chosen to paint the St. Mark sanctuary for his skills in the classical Byzantine style and lively use of color, Jenetopoulos said. Manos studied the intricacies of iconography in Greece, where he lived for 15 years, including time at Mount Athos, an Orthodox spiritual center on a peninsula filled with 20 monasteries.

He came back to the United States in 1986 and began painting Greek churches throughout the country, including sanctuaries in Savannah, Ga., Holmdel, N.J., and Detroit.

“This is not artwork; it’s theology in color,” Manos said. “Every day, I learn. I never say I am fully done.”

Pat Sourlis of Boca Raton, chair of the February weekend when the sanctuary will be consecrated, begins to tear up as she describes the painting of the icons.

“It’s very emotional,” said Sourlis, a member of the church’s original parish council in 1980. “When you walk into an Orthodox church anywhere in the world, the one thing we all have in common is the icons. Whether you know how to read or not, it’s all there for you.”

Latin and Greek ‘should be taught in every school’ – report


Latin and Greek GCSEs have lost much of their “intellectual force” and should be replaced by tougher new O-level-style exams, say campaigners.

Students who take the subjects at Oxford receive lessons in basic grammar and syntax because their school education has been so lacking, according to the Parliament Street report. Too often, the report argues, the school syllabus is closer to studying classical civilisation than the language.

“There is (deliberately) no systematic learning of grammar and syntax and emphasis is laid on fast reading of a dramatic continuous story in made-up Latin which gives scope for looking at aspects of ancient life,” it adds. “GCSEs should be replaced by a modern version of the O-level that stretches pupils and does not hamstring them as at present.”

The pamphlet also argues that Latin should be a core part of the curriculum – rather than the preserve of independent and selective state grammar schools, “There is a substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary,” pamphlet author, John N Davie, said. Only 13 per cent of state secondary schools in the UK offer Latin.

Ala. man helped keep Greek tradition alive


For more than 40 years, nearly every Greek wedding, funeral and baptism in Birmingham included music chanted by Angelos Petelos.

“He was there at every funeral,” said Toni Nordan, who learned to be a Greek chanter from Petelos. “If there was no one else there, Angelo was there.”

During that same time, nearly every Greek restaurant built in Birmingham was built by Petelos – from Niki’s West to Bright Star and the Fish Market – and he also oversaw the construction of the Colonial Chapel at American Village in Montevallo.

“He was a worker, a doer, more than a talker,” said the Rev. Paul Costopoulos, dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Holy Trinity-Holy Cross.

“He would work hard at our Greek festival. You could always see him sweating over the barbecue pit, cooking the lamb with his brother Tony.”

Petelos, born on the island of Samos, Greece in 1935, died on Dec. 4. He was 78.

On construction sites, Petelos was known to turn over a five-gallon bucket, sit down, smoke a cigarette, and tell a story about his childhood in Greece, his service in the U.S. Army or his work as a pilot and as Alabama Wing commander for the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. He often led search and rescue efforts for downed planes.

“He loved flying, the freedom that came from flying,” Costopoulos said. “Angelo enjoyed life. He loved Greek dance. He played a bouzoouki and was in a Greek band. He loved his Greek heritage. He was a repository of Greek culture.”

A few years ago he returned to visit Samos. “He was obviously proud of the island,” Costopoulos said. “He always drove a pickup truck with a license plate that said ‘Samos’ on back of it.”

Petelos left Greece at 12. His father was in the Greek army, fighting the Nazis, was rescued by the British when his ship sank, then joined the U.S. Army. He sent for his wife and three surviving children including Angelos. One of the children had died of malnutrition.

Petelos’ mother had five more children in America. They moved to Birmingham in 1950. When his father died in 1962, Angelos took over Petelos Construction Co. and provided for his younger siblings, ages 9-13.

“As the oldest brother, he assumed the role of patriarch,” Costopoulos said. “He was faithful to family, his church, his country. He was definitely a patriot. Politically, he was an Archie Bunker. The Tea Party would have been proud. He adopted America as his country. He was first and foremost an American, but he was proud of his Greek heritage.”

He liked telling stories and arguing about politics.

“He was rough around the edges, but he had a sweetness about him,” said George Sarris, owner of The Fish Market. “You could argue with him, but you still liked him. I was more liberal than him. We had so many fights. He’d have a cup of coffee and come back.”

Petelos could be a salty character at times.

“He was by no means a saint; he liked partying, he would always smoke,” Costopoulos said.

“I used to joke with him,” Sarris said. “‘You exalt God on Sunday, then come Monday you take the Lord’s name in vain.’ He’d say he’s a sinner; he’s going to do better. That’s like all of us. Not many of us are saints.”

But the Greek Orthodox religious traditions were safe in his hands, and kept alive every Sunday morning. He rarely missed services.

“There are several of us he has taught in the traditional way to be a chanter,” Nordan said. “It was always men who did this. The head chanter before Angelo would not allow women to do it. I’m the third woman he has allowed to become a chanter. You have your head chanter who invites you to join him, then he teaches you these traditional melodies and hymns. He taught each of us how to sing these traditional hymns so we can pass on this legacy. All of the hymns are written in Greek. You are taught the traditional melodies; you have to learn it in Greek.”

While preserving the Greek liturgy, Petelos helped the congregation move more toward singing and chanting in English.

“Angelos was at the forefront of those who said our congregation is not Greek-speaking, so we have to use more English,” Nordan said. “Angelos realized spreading the word of Christ was more important than being traditional about the Greek words.”

Petelos’ youngest brother, Tony Petelos, former Hoover mayor and now Jefferson County manager, gets choked up talking about the last time he saw his brother in church at the chanter’s stand. He was no longer able to sing. He was diagnosed with lung cancer last year. “It’s hard to imagine going to church and looking up and not seeing him there,” Petelos said. “He had a beautiful voice. He lost his voice with cancer this time last year at Christmas.”

Petelos said his brother, who was married to wife Catherine for 52 years, was like a father to him.

“I was the youngest of five born in this country,” Petelos said. “He was a father figure to us. He bought us our first cars. He gave us jobs working construction, cleaning up sites. I was always watching Angelos and his work ethic.”

Despite protests from his carpenter, Angelos would hire many unskilled workers to help put them through college, Petelos said.

“He wanted to give them a chance to make money to continue their education,” he said. “He was a huge influence on young people through the Civil Air Patrol. He was the wing commander from 1993-98. He rebuilt the cadet program. He had a flight academy and 40 kids flew solo in civil airplanes. He had a huge influence on hundreds, if not more than 1,000 kids. He touched so many lives, in so many different ways.”

Greek Cypriots realize it’s time to start benefiting from peace

Source: Hürriyet Daily News

Greek Cypriots have long hesitated about signing a final settlement over Cyprus’ division, but the necessity of a lasting solution is slowly dawning on the island’s southern half, according to Turkish Cyprus’ foreign minister. Economically, the only way forward is a solution, Özdil Nami says

Nami warned against accepting the status quo on the island, saying it was difficult to convince people to change othwerise. ‘As time passes, our job is getting more difficult, not easier,’ he says. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Nami warned against accepting the status quo on the island, saying it was difficult to convince people to change othwerise. ‘As time passes, our job is getting more difficult, not easier,’ he says. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Southern Cyprus is coming to the realization that it can accrue more benefits from a peaceful solution to their island’s division than maintaining the status quo, according to Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Özdil Nami.

Greek Cyprus has the realization that “it may be a better idea to tackle the real problem and reunite Cyprus and start benefiting from what peace can offer,” Nami recently told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Where do we stand on the efforts for a settlement?

We are engaged in a process that will result in the formation of a joint statement, to be read by both leaders at their first meeting which will signal the start of the new round of negotiations that will be a continuation of past efforts with the goal of establishing a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in Cyprus with political equality with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.

What are the remaining hurdles that have prevented a finalization of it?

It is the final phase. The Greek Cypriot leader put forward some concepts as vital issues for him. These included the issues of single sovereignty, single citizenship and a single international identity. The Turkish Cypriot side counteracted by saying that though it is true these concepts are important, concepts like political equality, internal citizenship and residual powers are also very important. At the stage we are at, we have managed to overcome difficulties we faced and created a common language on these issues. Having said that, both sides are trying to inject a few sentences that will reassure their voters that the deal has not jeopardized their well-known positions. I think it is natural that both leaders are attempting to do this; it is also natural that some suggestions while being accepted some may not be. In particular, the Turkish Cypriot side attaches a lot of importance that after our federation is established, the bitter experiences of the past when Turkish Cypriots were kicked out of the republic they co-founded will not be repeated. From our point of view, we would like this to be addressed in a clear fashion.

Greek Cypriots have their own needs for clarification; they are afraid that any wording that may indicate a potential for two independent states be formed with a settlement is dangerous so they are acting very cautiously to avoid any sentencing to that direction; so the final touches are being done right now.

As someone who has been witness to so many failed past initiatives, how would you describe the current chances for settlement?

We now have the potential to finalize the statement within the coming days; we don’t need months of negotiations; we are nearly there. It is going to be a historic document that addresses many of the controversial issues that have been in dispute between the two sides. This in itself is both good news but it also carries a lot of responsibility and if we are unable to finalize it despite the fact that a lot of work has been done and a lot of convergence has been achieved, this will be a signal in particular to the United Nations that we are unable to solve our own problem. At that point, how will the international community react? We don’t know. I think both sides would act responsibly and take the matter in their own hands instead of delegating it to third parties and bring it to a successful conclusion. I feel this spirit existing on both sides of the island and that’s what I am counting on.

What would make it different from past initiatives?

We had similar opportunities in the past. In the history of states, sometimes people do not grab the opportunity there and that’s what happened to Cypriots before. This time around, there is another golden opportunity presenting itself to us. It’s totally up to the Cypriots to grasp it or not; so we would have nobody to blame but ourselves if we don’t make good use of it. It is an important opportunity not to be missed.

Turkish public usually believes that Greek Cypriots don’t genuinely want a solution that will be acceptable to both sides since they are better off and they are EU member?

They are not well off; they have lost almost half of their bank deposits, their pension funds have evaporated. Without a comprehensive settlement, it will take them 20 years to fully recover. Youth unemployment is reaching 40 percent; it is a dire situation. Although they attained EU membership, their aspiration to use that membership to the detriment of Turkish Cypriots has turned to be futile expectation. At least on these two counts, there is a realization that rather than chasing these empty dreams, it may be a better idea to tackle the real problem and reunite Cyprus and start benefiting from what peace can offer.

On the other hand, we have the natural resources being discovered around Cyprus. The best way; the way with the least cost and risk would be to sell it through Turkey and the only way to achieve that will be through finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. Energy can be one of the game-changers if handled properly; it can be an incentive for a solution.

In comparison to the last decade, circumstances have changed, you say. How about the terms of the agreement? Usually, it is said that everybody knows what the solution looks like, but it is a matter of taking the decision. Is the new initiative bringing about surprises?

There will be no surprises. There already exists a very important U.N. body of work; there are guiding principles defined by Security Council resolutions, and room to maneuver is well-defined. Negotiations will not resume from scratch but it will be built on what has already been achieved by the past leaders. What it will look like is already well-known.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiadis is known to be pro-solution. Has he acted in line with that view about him so far?

One would hope they would act in a more courageous way and by now we would be talking about finalizing a settlement, not finalizing a joint statement. But both sides have political realities; on the Greek Cypriot side there are big agenda points regarding the economic crisis; the loss of confidence in Anastasiadis is a reality, so there is this level of caution. It is important not to lose the balance and not to go overbroad because that would trigger deep suspicions on the Turkish Cypriot side. It already started; we had much higher expectations from him which were not fulfilled, if he fails to show the necessary leadership to finalize the joint statement that he initially requested, then that would send a signal that Cypriots have tried but failed to reach a settlement. At that point, the U.N. would have to take a look at want is going on exactly.

The economic crisis could increase nationalist feelings and might poison the negotiation spirit.

From what I can gather talking to the business community on the Greek Cypriot side, they are seeing great potential for economic development with a settlement. Especially looking at Turkey like the rising star of the region, they see big economic benefit. During economic hardship, nationalist sentiments also come to the fore, but if I am to judge, the expectation of economic benefit from a settlement is higher now and at least the business community is looking forward.

There is a coalition in Turkish Cyprus and the president is coming from a different party? Has it been difficult to forge a common position?

We are using it to our benefit and telling Greek Cypriots that although we have a president coming from a right-wing party and a government dominated by a socialist party, all these political forces are united in supporting the peace talks and achieving a rapid solution. We are giving the message that on the Turkish side, with its government, main opposition, president and Turkey, we are all in.

You are relatively from a younger generation; is the passing of time making it easier or more difficult to reach a settlement?

It is a mixed picture. Younger generations do not carry the same bitter experiences with them; they don’t have good experiences of the past generations either. But as time passes there are more realities created on the ground like more property development and that will make many issues like territorial adjustments or a property regime more difficult to tackle in the future.

I don’t think it is a good idea to play for time and hope that future generations will find it easier to come to a settlement. Each generation gets more used to the status quo and lives and grows up with the status quo, and it is very difficult to convince people to change what they are accustomed to. As time passes, our job is getting more difficult, not easier.

Who is Özdil Nami?

Born in 1967, Özdil Nami graduated from the Boğaziçi University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences Department of Business. He later completed his master’s degree at the University of California Berkeley’s Finance Faculty.

He started to work at Erdil & Sons Ltd. as a director in 1993. Between the years of 1997 and 2000, he served as political adviser at the TRNC Presidential office. From 2000 to 2001, he worked as a council member at the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and from 2001 to 2003 as the chairman of the Cyprus Turkish Businessmen’s Association. In 2005, he was elected as the representative of the Turkish Cypriot Community at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

In 2003, 2005 and 2009, he was elected as a Republican Turkish Party-United Forces MP for Nicosia. Between the years of 2008 and 2010, he served as the Turkish Cypriot president’s special representative for Cyprus negotiations. He was again elected this year to Parliament and on Sept. 1, he was appointed as the Turkish Cypriot minister of foreign affairs.

Glimmers of hope for Greek future


Athens sunset

With predictions of growth in 2014 and unemployment down slightly, there is a feeling of optimism in Athens – but Greeks say they know there are still difficult days ahead.

They come just before sunset – those magical few minutes in which Athens bathes in a deep purple glow.

It is a light I have never seen anywhere else. I often wait for it, looking out at the late afternoon sun.

It sets behind the Acropolis, where the ancient Gods were worshipped, glinting onto the Aegean nearby. Rays dance across the mountains.

And then they reach the one skyscraper in the city: the Athens Tower, as it is called, poking above a skyline where nothing is allowed to stand taller than the Parthenon.

The colours change – for a few seconds it seems like the building is on fire, the glass now reflecting the shot of orange that hits it square on.

It is an almost spiritual moment in a city revered throughout the centuries – but now associated with darker times.

And as I watch the scene today, I can hear the distant voices of protest, the megaphone shouting anti-austerity slogans: who is it this time? Doctors? University staff? You lose track.

Men hoist Greek flag in front of the Parthenon temple in Athens

But even as the rallies continue and the exhaustion of four years of financial crisis deepens, Greece goes on.

This is something that many outside fail to grasp: that even at the height of the meltdown, when petrol bombs and tear gas enveloped the main square, when parliament argued into the early hours over more cuts, when there were crisis talks in Brussels about how a country might transition out of the Euro – this one would pick itself up, dust itself off and go on living.

Shops would stay open, cafes remain busy, offices work and tourists arrive. What is known is the story of Greece’s decline, how a once-confident country has lost a quarter of its economy; of 27% unemployment – double that among the youth – of pensions slashed and homelessness up.

And that is all true, it has been heartbreaking to see the tearing of the social fabric. And yet perhaps the story correspondents have not told enough is about how Greece has not actually collapsed.

It has made me reflect. Hospitals and schools cannot afford basic equipment, the number of suicides has risen, some people who burned wood for their heating because oil was too expensive have died of suffocation, a party that denies the Holocaust and attacks immigrants is polling 10%. Does that not constitute collapse?

ultra nationalist party Golden Dawn

The far-right Golden Dawn party is the third most popular party in Greece

But on the other hand, Greece functions. The government has not fallen and this year the protest movement has faded. Far fewer have taken to the streets, there has been almost no violence. Why?

That the opposition here is split is certainly one reason. Communists, unionists, the weary middle class and anarchists converge clumsily in demonstrations, knowing what they are fighting against but not unified in their goals.

I joined students protesting this autumn who chanted the same tired slogans that have been heard here for 40 years. The importance of the family unit in Greece has shielded many. And people here love life: even if some cannot afford essentials, they still find pleasure in their climate, landscape and culture.

But perhaps it is also that there is a large proportion that quietly supports what has happened. I sat in a bustling bar last week with a lawyer who is among them.

The crisis is changing Greece for the better, he told me. The bloated, clientelist public sector that employed unqualified people in return for political support, is being reformed.

Greeks are learning to live within their means. Tax evasion is no longer accepted. A new culture of solidarity has emerged: a feeling of “we are all in it together”.

Nothing is allowed to stand taller than the Parthenon on the Athens skyline

There is even a spirit of entrepreneurialism being born. It is, he said, a painful transition – but a necessary one. Psychiatrists talk of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Maybe Greece, which has known much grief, is edging towards the final stage.

I meet far more now who tell me that if they could choose between going back to 2004, when Greece basked in the Olympics and European football victory and felt wealthy – or now, pushing on, out of all this – they would take the latter.

The realisation has dawned that pre-crisis Greece was an illusion: it was a party which just had to end.

For sure, this country is changing in fundamental ways. Yet visitors here always remark how “normal” it seems – that is perhaps above all, a testament to Greek resilience. Beneath the smiles, though, there is a fear of the future.

The government talks of the worst being over, of an end to recession next year, of unemployment starting to fall. On paper, the figures do look better.

But as another tumultuous 12 months come to a close, nobody can tell if that sunset over Athens really does mark a true glimmer of hope.

PEOPLE at high risk of bowel and womb cancer will receive a more accurate diagnosis


New hopes for cancer prediction

PEOPLE at high risk of bowel and womb cancer will receive a more accurate diagnosis due to a new model that can turn “previously uninterpretable DNA data into usable knowledge”, scientists say.

A scientist from Cardiff University is part of an international research team that claims to have developed a new way of identifying people at high risk of cancer.

The study focuses on the genes responsible for Lynch Syndrome, which is a rare condition that runs in families and is the most common form of hereditary bowel cancer.

People with the syndrome also have an increased risk of developing other cancers, including womb cancer.

It is hoped the research will enable doctors to give patients a more accurate picture of their familial risk.

“In the UK, bowel cancer kills about 16,000 people each year, and womb cancer – the commonest gynaecological cancer – about 2000 women a year, with Wales having the highest rate,” said Dr Ian Frayling, from Cardiff University’s Institute of Medical Genetics and a member of the International Society for Gastrointestinal Hereditary Tumours (InSiGHT), which organised the research.

“What we have been able to do is effectively refine genetic information in the InSiGHT database and provide a more accurate answer of the risk of getting cancer,” he said.

As a result of this study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, doctors will be able to say “much more confidently” whether patients have Lynch Syndrome, and therefore whether they are at a higher risk of cancer, Dr Frayling said.

“This will help to save more lives, because by giving a definite answer to more patients they will be able to access the specialist screening that they need,” he said.

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