"Respect of democracy and focus on defending our country is the strongest message of unity and a responsibility of all of us," said President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, at the annual reception held in the Presidential Mansion gardens to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the restoration of democracy following the dictatorship.
In a strong message to "populists and extremists of every political side," Sakellaropoulou said that "our democracy has a historic and social depth, and nobody may belittle it and trivialise it. The comparisons some people attempt with the dark era of the dictatorship are not simply historically ignorant, they are also directly antidemocratic. We all know there is no perfect democracy."
The President said that a lot needs to be done continuously to maintain democracy, "a difficult and demanding exercise," as she called it.
July 24 is a date that also entails a sad anniversary, that of the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus, and a rising Turkish aggression, Sakellaropoulou said. "Today, circumstances are even harder and emotional for all of us. For the first time in 86 years, a Muslim prayer was held at Hagia Sophia."
The event is "deeply hurtful" and goes beyond Christianity. "Turkey is removing itself from the principles of the secular state and the values of tolerance and religious pluralism," Sakellaropoulou noted, but the monument itself will shine as "a symbol of religious cohabitation and a monument of world cultural heritage."
In attendance were a number of politicians and dignitaries, leadership of the armed forces and security forces, and frontline workers of the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time, and in addition to doctors and nurses, invitees included staff from supermarkets, cleaning services, delivery services, ambulance drivers and firefighters - all services that bore the brunt of the pandemic crisis and supported Greece during the lockdown.
"The pandemic proved once more in our history that we can overcome individualism and selfishness, rally together and work towards a common goal for the common good," Sakellaropoulou concluded.