The Pope and Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria and All Africa’s visit to South Africa in January 2015 yielded a number of positive outcomes. In addition to visiting a number of churches and communities in South Africa, the Patriarch Theodoros II held a meeting with President Jacob Zuma on 18 January.

Following the meeting, the Office of the Presidency issued a media statement, in which President Zuma expressed his “deep appreciation for the positive contribution of the Greek South African community in the development of the country”.

The Patriarch outlined development projects undertaken by the Greek Orthodox Church throughout Africa. A specific project will be developed in an underprivileged community, most likely an AIDS clinic. This project will be monitored by both the Presidency and the Patriarchate. The project will be implemented by the Hellenic Foundation for Development and Philanthropy, a non-profit organisation and brainchild of the Hellenic arm of the Hellenic Italian Portuguese Alliance (HIP Alliance).

The delegation included the heads of the diplomatic missions of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt as well as HIP Alliance members. Stavros Nicolaou, President of the HIP Alliance, says that significant progress was made in advancing relations and understanding at a crucial time, given that the meeting took place on the eve of President Zuma’s departure to the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos.

“Subject to his availability, President Zuma has agreed to a state visit to Greece, Cyprus and Egypt. A state visit would facilitate stronger bilateral, political, economic, cultural, commercial and social cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and South Africa,” says Nicolaou. President Zuma also accepted an invitation to visit the Headquarters of the Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Egypt.

President Zuma, by virtue of his membership in G20, is one of the top 20 most influential Presidents globally. “His in-principle acceptance of an invitation for a state visit speaks volumes of his commitment to the local South African Hellenic community. The prominence of a visit by a G20 president offers opportunities for both Greece and Cyprus to cast a spotlight on the issues faced by these respective countries,” explains Nicolaou.

President Zuma paid tribute to the role that the South African Hellenic community has played – and will continue to play – in the construction and development of South Africa.

“This underscores the significance of the meeting, as one of the cornerstones of our existence as the HIP Alliance is building social cohesion and enhancing cultural tolerance in our country. We are proud that President Zuma views the Hellenic community as a leading change agent in South Africa,” comments Nicolaou.

The HIP Alliance was formed in 1994 with the express aim of bridging the gap between the South African government and the needs of the Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese communities. The HIP Alliance promotes active citizenry within its communities.

At the meeting, the Order of St. Mark was invested on President Zuma by the Patriarch Theodoros II. “I bless South Africa and pray for peace,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. President Zuma joins a number of other international heads of state who have received the Order.

Additional references


18 January 2015


The Head of the Greek Orthodox Church, His Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria and All Africa: Theodoris II has this afternoon, 18 January 2015, paid a courtesy call on His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at his residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria.

President Zuma expressed his gratitude for the meeting. He expressed his deep appreciation for the positive contribution of the Greek South African community in the development of the country. The President cited leading citizens of Greek origin such as Advocate George Bizos and Mr Stavros Nicolaou, the President of the Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese Alliance who serves in the BRICS Business Council and also as a member of the Brand SA Trust.

The Patriarch also expressed his gratitude for the meeting with the President and assured him that South Africans of Greek origin are fully committed to South Africa, and thanked the President for his leadership.

The Patriarch appraised the President of some of the development initiatives that the Greek Orthodox Church was supporting in Africa, including building 3000 schools and 2000 clinics. He indicated as well that the church had built 4000 water boreholes across the continent and that they would be keen to support South Africa’s infrastructure development through developing the boreholes in this country as well.

The highlight of the warm and cordial meeting was the bestowal by His Beatitude Theodoris II on President Zuma, of the Order of the lion of St Mark, which is one of the highest honours of the Greek Orthodox Church.

“I am very humbled by this highest honour. I accept it on behalf of all the people of South Africa’’, said the President. He said building the country was a collective effort, and said he also accepted the award on behalf of the Greek South African community in particular, given their positive contribution to building a new South Africa.
The Pope blessed the President and the country and wished South Africa growth and strength.

President Zuma accepted an invitation to visit the Headquarters of the Church in Alexandria, Egypt.

The Pope was accompanied by;

1. Mr Stavros Nicolaou, President of the Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese, (HIP), Alliance.
2. Ms Maria Diamantopolou, Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to South Africa.
3. Mr Petros Nacouzis, High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus to South Africa.
4. Mr Sherf Naguib, Ambassador of the Republic of Egypt to South Africa
5. Rev Ethos Pappas, Envoy of the Pope and Patriarch in Cyprus
6. Mr John Balladakis, Chairman of the Hellenic Section of the HIP Alliance.

President Zuma’s delegation included the Minister in the Presidency for Planning Monitoring and Evaluation, Mr Jeff Radebe and the Deputy Minister of International Relations, Mr Llewelyn Landers.

Enquiries: Mac Maharaj on 079 879 3203 or

Issued by the Presidency