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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-01-06

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Epiphany celebrated throughout Greece with Blessing of the Waters
  • [02] Patriarch leads Epiphany Day service in Florida
  • [03] Budget deficit falls in 11-month period

  • [01] Epiphany celebrated throughout Greece with Blessing of the Waters

    The feast of the Epiphany was celebrated throughout Greece on Friday with the Blessing of the Waters. President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and prime minister Costas Karamanlis attended the Blessing ceremony at Piraeus, the country's largest port, which was presided by Piraeus Metropolitan Kallinikos.

    According to Greek Orthodox tradition, Epiphany, the anniversary of the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, is celebrated each year on January 6, in a ritual according to which men brave the chilly waters to dive for and retrieve a cross after it has been blessed by the priest and tossed into the water.

    The man who recovers the cross will have good luck throughout the coming year.

    The ritual also includes the blessing of small boats and ships.

    The ceremony in Piraeus was also attended by main opposition PASOK MP and former minister Theodoros Pangalos, who represented PASOK leader George Papandreou, former interim prime minister Ioannis Grivas, merchant marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis and former merchant marine minister (PASOK) George Anomeritis, national defence minister Vassilis Michaloliakos, deputy educationa nd religious affairs minister George Kalos, deputy transport minister Anastasios Nerantzis, employment deputy minister Gerassimos Yakoumatos, parliament 3rd vice president Yannis Tragakis, Piraeus mayor Christos Agrapidis, Piraeus prefect Yannis Michas, the Harbour Corps leadership, MPs from the wider Piraeus area, and other officials.

    After the ceremony, prime minister Karamanlis wished "enlightenment" for all the politicians and citizens for the good of the land.

    A reception was held afterwards at the Piraeus City Hall for the attending officials.

    Similar ceremonies were held in Athens at the National Swimming Pool and at the Reservoir in the Kolonaki residential district, attended by Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis, education minister Marietta Yannakou, national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, former merchant marine minister (PASOK) Christos Papoutsis, and MPs from all the parties elected in the Athens A' electoral district.

    In Thessaloniki, the ceremony was presided by Metropolitan Anthimos.

    On a sad note, a young man drowned, for the first time during the diving for the cross, at the Kefalovrysos Lake in Elassona.

    The 19-year-old youth dove for the cross, together with his brother, but apparently struck his head on the lake bed -- which was 8 meters deep at that point. The brother also faced problems after he dove into the freezing waters, but was rescued by other persons attending the ceremony.

    The two brothers, out-of-town Roma members, had not attended the blessing ritual but happened to be passing by at the time and, since none of the locals dove for the cross -- as they knew the freezing temperature of the lake's waters in the winter season -- decided to dive after it themselves.

    [02] Patriarch leads Epiphany Day service in Florida

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos led the Epiphany Day service in Tarpon Springs in Florida on Friday.

    The morning service was held in the presence of Archbishop of America Demetrius and many clerics at Aghios Nikolaos Church which this year celebrated its 100th anniversary since its founding.

    Present at the Blessing of the Waters ritual which followed were clerics, officials of the municipal, state and federal authorities, hundreds of children from Greek-American schools and who were dressed in traditional Greek costumes and members of Greek-American organisations.

    The ceremony was due to be followed by a traditional Greek feast, with Greek music and food, along the coastal highway of Tarpon Springs.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis is representing the Greek government at the festivities in Tarpon Springs.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, accompanied by Archbishop of America Demetrius and Deputy Foreign Minister Skandalakis, will visit New Orleans on Saturday.

    [03] Budget deficit falls in 11-month period

    The state budget deficit declined by 26.1 percent in the 11-month period January-November 2005, compared with the corresponding period in 2004, according to figures released by the State General Accounts Office.

    According to the figures, the net budget revenues in the 11-month period rose by 6.2 percent, compared with a target of 6.7 percent for the entire year, while expenditures rose by 4.9 percent against the target of 5.3 percent.

    More specifically, primary expenditures increased by 5.3 percent against the target of 5.9 percent, and interest rose by 3.5 percent against the target of 2.8 percent.

    Meanwhile, deputy finance minister Petros Doukas sent a circular to all the ministries determining the proportion of credits earmarked in the 2006 budget that will be disbursed in the first quarter of the year, as part of his ministry's effort to contain the rate of increase in public sector spending.

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