Biden, speaking at Greek Orthodox event, says Greek economy improving; urges religious freedom

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PHILADELPHIA — Vice President Joe Biden visited Philadelphia on Wednesday for the second time in less than a week, speaking to a large gathering of Greek Orthodox clergy and laity.

Biden expressed optimism that the struggling Greek economy is making a comeback, and said the exploration of natural gas in the region could help boost the recovery and change the geopolitics of the area.

The vice president drew a standing ovation when he spoke of the importance of religious freedom and urged the reopening of a long-closed Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Halki. Turkish officials have demanded that Greece reciprocate by improving the conditions for Muslims there.

"The protection of holy places and heritage sites in Turkey is absolutely necessary," Biden said, while adding: "It's a two-way street. Muslims deserve the same freedom in Greece."

More than 1,000 people attended the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America congress at a downtown hotel.

Days earlier, Biden took part in Fourth of July festivities at nearby Independence Hall.

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