Greek Orthodox Community Commemorates Fall of Constantinople

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          Contact: Rev. David G. Bissias
May 30, 2012                                Special Assistant to the Metropolitan
                                                                            TEL.:  (219) 932-7347


Chicago's Greek Orthodox Community
Commemorates "Fall of Constantinople"

CHICAGO, IL: On Tuesday, May 29, the “Commemoration of the Fall of Constantinople” was held at the Chicago Historical Museum. The program for the event included a special preview of the documentary film Hello Anatolia, a musical performance of traditional Greek music from Asia Minor and a memorial prayer for the departed Orthodox Christians who populated Asia Minor over the centuries and defended the City in 1453.

The annual event recalls the capture of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), capital of the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire, by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 A.D. This historical moment was turning point for European and Near Eastern civilization whose consequences are felt even today.

The event has been a joint presentation of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Hellenic Society of Constantinople and, this year these organizations have been joined by the Greek America Foundation. Present among the nearly 400 attendees were His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, spiritual leader of the local Greek Orthodox community, representatives of the host organizations, and numerous religious leaders from Chicago’s ecumenical Christian and interfaith communities.

The annual commemoration has focused on the contributions of the Byzantine legacy throughout the world, the cultural sustainment of the Greek people during the Ottoman period, and the continued presence of Greek cultural life in Asia Minor and modern Istanbul today. This year’s event focused on “building bridges” in light of the historical tensions between the Turkish and Greek communities.

Hello Anatolia (Crescent Street Films) tells the story of a young Greek American filmmaker, Chrysovalantis Stamelos, who embarks on the journey of his life to Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey, to trace the footsteps of his great grandparents in their native land. In his effort to strengthen his own connection to his cultural heritage, he becomes a bridge builder of two cultures and two peoples who share a more than divides them. The executive producer of the film is the Greek America Foundation and Gregory Pappas. Stamelos was on hand to answer questions from the audience following the viewing.

The musical performance of the evening was presented by three young and dynamic musicians. Vocalist Margarita is a native of northern California who has appeared on the Greek television program Fame Story, similar to the well-known American Idol. She was joined by brothers George and Paul Psarras, also of California, who play in the musical group Fotia. Paul Psarras is a Grammy-nominated musician. The three performed Greek folk music arising from the Hellenic communities of Asia Minor, especially near Smyrna (the “Smyrneika”) and the experience of Greek refugees following the war between Greece and Turkey in 1922 (the “Rebetika”). The selected songs celebrate the triumphs of the Hellenic spirit and immortalize the tragedies of the period.

Host Rev. David Bissias noted the theme of “building bridges” at the onset, connecting the past tragedies with new positive developments in the relations between the Turkish government and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople still resident in modern Istanbul, as well as a new spirit of cooperation between the Greek and Turkish communities in the USA, an effort spearheaded by Metropolis of Chicago Chancellor, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, and exemplified by the recent meeting at the request of the Turkish Foreign Minister with Metropolitan Iakovos following the recent NATO Summit in Chicago.

Bishop Demetrios concluded the evening’s program with a memorial prayer for the fallen heroes at the “Capture of Constantinople” in 1453 and the Orthodox Christians who struggled to preserve their faith and culture to the present day in Asia Minor.