Since the exposure of the scandal surrounding the monastery of Vatopedi in 2008, which is located within the Greek autonomous monastic state, none of the conservative party’s members have paid a visit to the region. Former PM Kostas Karamanlis was the last member of New Democracy who visited the mountain peninsula in the north of Greece in 2006.
After Samaras became head of the Greek government, some first visits were held by governmental officials to “Agion Oros,” “Holy Mountain” in Greek, the name which the area bears, as it was believed that “Mount Athos is more than just the monastery of Vatopedi.”
The visit of the Greek PM is scheduled to last 24 hours. Samaras is expected to arrive at the state’s capital, Karyes, late on Saturday and depart at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
According to the schedule, the PM will visit the monasteries of Iviron and Simonos Petra, and will pay his respects to the holy icon of Axion Esti, which is dedicated to Mary and is located in the primary church (the Protaton) of the capital town. He will also hold meetings with the monastic society, the representatives of the 20 monasteries and also address problems like the tax rules applied to the region.
Samaras will be joined by New Democracy members Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, Minister for Education and Religious Affairs, and Theodoros Karaoglou, Minister for Macedonia and Thrace, as well as Yiannis Ioannidis, candidate Governor for Central Macedonia, and Stavros Kalafatis, candidate Mayor for the Municipality of Thessaloniki.