Two Greek Australian politicians singled out from Independence Day celebrations organised by the Archdiocese

“We were deliberately snubbed because we supported the legalisation of abortion law reform,” say Bonaros and Pnevmatikos

The 25 March commemoration ceremony organised by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese was initiated by His Grace Bishop Silouan of Sinope in the presence of distinguished guests and representatives of State and local governments but the two women who traditionally attend the event and lay a wreath in honor of the heroes of 1821, were not included in this year’s formal guest list.

In an exclusive interview with Neos Kosmos the two women claim they were intentionally not invited to the event held by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on Sunday on 21 March because they supported the legalisation of abortion law reform in South Australia – an issue that has outraged the Greek Orthodox Church.

“Let me be crystal clear, I didn’t attend Sunday’s commemorative service because I wasn’t invited – and that was deeply hurtful to me,” Ms Bonaros said.

“If I am to believe the rumours, it is extremely disappointing organisers of an important cultural event like that – a service dedicated to the beginning of Greece’s independence, to freedom, to a revolution to end 400 years of oppression of our motherland and our forefathers and foremothers – chose to politicise it. The irony is not lost on me! Of all the events not to be welcomed at, the one that started where my family’s roots are seeded – the Peloponnese – was deeply upsetting,” Bonaros said, adding that she certainly doesn’t need an invitation to attend church, nor does she attend because she is asked to.

“I attend church first and foremost because I am a person of faith and because I am a proud Greek Orthodox woman.

“Nobody can take that away from me and I will keep attending just as I did before I became an MP and since becoming an MP. That said, when it comes to my role as an MP, I do not expect to be treated any different to my colleagues regardless of their political views – but especially when other MPs were invited to the event.

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“The Archdiocese is obviously entitled to do as it wishes, but I respectfully ask our Bishop and anyone else responsible for organising the weekend’s commemorative event, why two Greek MPs were singled out and treated differently to other invited MPs – other MPs who voted in precisely the same way that Irene and I did,” she added.

Ms Pnevmatikos labelled the snub – intentional or otherwise – “inappropriate and unacceptable” by organisers.

“Could it be this omission was deliberate and somehow punishment from the church in terms of our position on abortion law reform,” Ms Pnevmatikos asked.

“Certainly, we both received correspondence from the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia Archbishop Makarios, chastising us and suggesting penitence for our views on abortion law reform which was voted and passed recently by the South Australian Parliament,” she said.

“We all have differing views, and we need to be mindful and respect the differing views and opinions that exist. However, there is no place in our State Parliament for church-made legislation.

“The War of Independence resulted in the formation of the modern Greek State, and just as importantly, the long-lasting struggle against 400 years of Ottoman rule represents a strong unifying element of Greek society.

“Whether fighting Ottoman rule for religious, political, historical, or cultural reasons, Greeks united and brought a sense of purpose and identity for Greek society.

“It is this Greek identity that is most vital for all celebrations of this important national day.

“It is not about what divides us but what brings us together. Let us not return to a system that existed in Greek society under Ottoman rule,” she said.

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Archdiocese response

Neos Kosmos contacted Bishop of Sinope Silouan who confirmed that the two women were not invited to the event.

“We did not extend a formal invitation to Ms Bonaros and Ms Pnevmatikos,” Bishop Silouan said, adding that the decision was made after the two women voted in favor of the abortion law reform which was passed by the South Australian Parliament recently.

Bishop Silouan said that despite not having extended a formal invitation, the two women were still more than welcome to attend the event if they wished to do so.

Interestingly, other MPs as well as SA Premier Steven Marshall who voted the same way as Ms Bonaros and Ms Pnevmatikos were invited to attend the ceremony.

“Premier Marshall was formally invited to the event because he is our Premier, and he has always shown his support by granting us permission to hold the 25thMarch celebration at the War Memorial. In addition, Premier Marshall is not Greek Orthodox therefore we do not expect him to share the same views with us in regards to abortion,” explained Bishop Silouan.