Feb 1, 2000
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - After speaking with both Sister Maria Stephanopoulos, sister to former White House advisor George Stephanopoulos, and Nikki Stepanopoulos, mother of Sister Maria, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, sent a letter to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat expressing her outrage that the Palestinian Authority is using police to forcefully evict Sister Maria Stephanopoulos and another U.S. based religious leader from church property. Rep. Maloney has also been in contact with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The two American nuns have been secluded in the Jericho Garden Monastery in a two-week standoff with the Palestinian Authority to prevent the monastery from being taken over by the Moscow-based ''Red'' Russian Orthodox Church.

"Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority should adhere to the rule of law," Maloney said today. "They should not be making arbitrary decisions that any court following international legal standards would find unacceptable and appalling. More importantly, the Palestinian Authority should be guaranteeing the safety of the two American nuns at the center of this protest - which they are not doing. The Palestinians have created a dangerous situation that can only get worse," Maloney said.

Congresswoman Maloney spoke extensively with Sister Maria Stephanopoulos, who communicated via a mobile phone she is keeping with her in the monastery, about her physical welfare and her desire for a fair ending to this standoff. Rep. Maloney has also spoken repeatedly with Nikki Stephanopoulos about her daughter's current situation.

Both Mrs. Nikki Stephanopoulos and her daughter are urging Maloney, the State Department, and other supporters to pressure the Palestinian Authority to work fairly with both Churches to reach a fair solution to this conflict through the judicial process and adhere to the rule of law.

The standoff began on January 15, when Palestinian police raided the monastery near the central market of the Palestinian-run town and expelled most of the ''White'' clerics, saying they had documents showing that the property belonged to the ''Red'' church. The nuns belong to the rival ''White'' church founded by Russian exiles.

The Stephanopoulos family members are constituents of Congresswoman Maloney's. The family is based in both New York City and Astoria, Queens, areas in Maloney's district. Sister Xenia Cesana is from San Francisco.

For a copy of the letter to Yasser Arafat, Click Here.