The mayors of Lesbos, Greece Mr. Spyridon Galinos and Lampedusa, Italy Ms. Giusi Nicolini were honored with the 2016 Olof Palme Prize at a ceremony held at Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag. In attendance were the ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus, Dimitrios Touloupas and Andreas Kakouris, Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia, the widow of the late Olof Palme, who bestowed the prizes, and numerous public figures from the country’s political circles. This year, the Olof Palme Foundation awarded the courage, sacrifices, and humanitarianism displayed by the two mayors and the residents of their respective islands towards the thousands of refugees arriving there.
“The name of Lesbos has become commonplace to people from all over the world, who see an outpouring of humanitarianism and solidarity in its example, as well as the society envisioned by Olof Palme. My fellow citizens are doing their humanitarian duty as they handle an enormous humanitarian crisis in an exemplary manner; a crisis that has left the international community stunned as it discovers the real proportions of the problem,” Mr. Galinos noted in his speech.
At the end of the ceremony, Metropolitan Cleopas congratulated Mayor Galinos and invited him to visit the headquarters of the Holy Metropolis of Sweden in Stockholm. Their meeting took place on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at the St. George Cathedral. The Ambassador of Greece Dimitrios Touloupas accompanied Mayor Galinos to this meeting, along with the latter’s wife, his son Michael-Mimis Galinos, and his associate Marios Andriotis.
The meeting began with a tour of the Cathedral, where the visitors were informed about the church’s rich and longstanding history, as well as the present efforts to renovate the edifice.
In the discussions that followed, Mayor Galinos informed Metropolitan Cleopas about the present state of the island of Lesbos, as well as the problems and challenges that local governance is managing daily as a result of the large number of refugees that they are called to host.
In his conversation with Mayor Galinos, Metropolitan Cleopas reiterated the firm position of the Church, which has stood on the front lines of the effort to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees with all its resources right from the onset of the crisis, thus substantially aiding Greek state agencies. He also made special reference to the recent visit by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, and His Holiness Pope Francis to the refugee camp at Moria, highlighting the great symbolism of their meeting there. In addition, the Metropolitan cited the work of the Rev. Christopher Schuff, an Orthodox clergyman from the USA serving in Norway who is known for his volunteerism and organizational abilities, and who regularly visits Lesbos at his own expense to stand by the refugees.
At the conclusion of their discussion, Metropolitan Cleopas thanked Mayor Galinos for honoring the Ecumenical Patriarch’s historic eparchy in Scandinavia with his presence and offered him a copy of his study on St. Nectarios’ ministry at the Rizareios Seminary, as a token of his appreciation. The meeting ended with the Metropolitan expressing his wishes to the mayor for a safe return, continued success in the difficult task he has undertaken, and the assurance that he will keep him in his prayers.