This morning, around 12 noon (11 Rome time), Pope Francis arrived at the Presidential Palace in Athens, where the Welcome to Greece Ceremony took place. Upon his arrival, the Pope was received by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
Then, after the official photo, the guard of honor, and the interpretation of the hymns, the presentation of the respective delegations took place. At the end of the visit, the Holy Father went to the office of the President of the Republic for a courtesy visit.
While the meeting was being held in private, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, held a private meeting with the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in the presence of the alternate Secretary of State, Monsignor Edgar Peña Parra, of the Secretary for Relations with States, of Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, and of the Apostolic Nuncio in Greece, Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai.
At the end of the meeting, the President of the Republic accompanied His Holiness to the elevator. Afterward, Francis was received by the Prime Minister, and together they went to the room where the private meeting took place. Afterward, Francis and the Prime Minister went to the ground floor, where the President of the Republic was waiting for them. Together they went to the room where the meeting with the political and religious authorities, civil society, and the Diplomatic Corps took place.
After the meeting with the authorities, the Successor of Peter and the President of the Republic went to the room where the Pope signed in the Book of Honor: “God bless Greece, the ‘memory of Europe'”. Following the exchange of gifts, Pope Francis left the Presidential Palace and is driving to the Apostolic Nunciature in Athens, where he will have lunch.
Gift of the Holy Father to the President of the Republic
The Pontiff offered the President of the Republic rosaries and the commemorative medal of the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Cyprus and Greece that presents the two Apostles Paul and Barnabas, fundamental figures in the evangelization of these lands. Saint Barnabas is on the left, with the Gospel in one hand and a crozier in the other, symbols of his pilgrimage to announce the Word. We can recognize the Chrysopolitissa church in Paphos, which symbolically expresses the long history of Christianity in Cyprus and which, in addition, is today a meeting place for the different Christian denominations.
On the right is the apostle Paul, with a pen and a scroll, writing his famous epistles. Behind him is a symbolic view of ancient Greece, which was Greece, that the apostle Paul toured and evangelized; their meeting at the Areopagus in Athens is famous in this sense.
The President of the Hellenic Republic, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, was born in Thessaloniki in 1956. She received a law degree from the National Capodistria University of Athens in 1978 and then specialized in administrative and constitutional law at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1982 she was appointed rapporteur at the Council of State, the Supreme Administrative Court of Greece.
In 1988, she began to practice as an associate attorney in the third chamber, working mainly on cases related to education, public service, and local administration. In 2000, she was promoted to State Attorney and served in the Fifth Chamber, working on Environmental Law cases.
In 2015 she assumed the position of vice president of the Council of State and three years later, in 2018, she was appointed president of the Supreme Administrative Court, a position she holds until February 11, 2020. On January 22, 2020, the first woman was elected in the history of the country, president of the Hellenic Republic, with 261 votes out of a total of 300. Sakellaropoulou has a daughter.
The Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, son of the former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, was born in Athens in 1968. After graduating from Athens College in 1986, he studied in the United States at Harvard University, where he graduated.
He studied at Harvard University, where he received a BA in Social Studies, and Stanford University, where he earned a Master’s degree in International Relations. In 1995, back at Harvard, he obtained an MBA. Before embarking on a political career, he worked in Greece and abroad for business consultancies and banks. In 2003 he entered politics and the following year he was elected deputy of the center-right Nea Demokratia (New Democracy) party.
He was Minister of Administrative Reforms and Electronic Governance from June 2013 to January 2015, in the Government of Antonis Samaras. In 2016 he became chairman of the ND party and leader of the opposition. On July 7, 2019, he was appointed Prime Minister of Greece. Mitsotakis is married with three children.
The building that houses the Presidential Palace was built in Athens in 1897. It was designed by the architect Ernst Ziller. The palace was the official residence of the Crown Prince until 1913, then the King until 1974 (except in the Republican period), and finally the President of the Republic. It is located in the heart of the Greek capital, close to the National Garden and the Hellenic Parliament.
It has an area of 27 thousand square meters, largely occupied by the garden. The honor guard of the Presidential Palace is assembled by the Euzone, soldiers selected from the mountain infantry of the Greek army.