Report for 2003 (English)
REPORT OF HIS BEATITUDE PETROS VII POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA FOR THE YEAR 2003
Alexandria, 31 December 2003
Dear Brother Hierarchs,
Dear and Beloved Children in the Lord,
The end of every year is necessarily associated with the report on the work done during the past year, with the purpose, on the one hand , of a description of the work done and on the other the referral to the programme for the new year. In this concept, the dawn of every new year constitutes an occasion for the re-designation of the course and for the continuation of the works which have been set as a goal of our Ecclesiastical mission and ministry. Besides, the life of the Church is neither an individual matter, nor is it cut off from the broader life of the Ecclesiastical body as a whole. During the expiring year 2003, the Patriarchal work of our Apostolic Throne was blessed by the Creator of Time, the Lord and God Jesus Christ, and therefore we offer glorifying praise of thanks to Him, who, through the multitude of His benevolence deigned that the work be promoted, the goals pushed ahead, and above all, that our spiritual and pastoral work be rendered to the glory of His Holy Name and to the defense of His Church.
In a condensed, and at times succinct, form, we will present to you in thematic units, the goals which had been set and the ways in which they were fulfilled or promoted, as also the whole perspective of Patriarchal work, while finally we will present to you all that, by God’s grace, we expect to do during the new year 2004.
An important obligation of the Primate of the Patriarchate is to visit, as often as –possible, his flock throughout Africa, and to give orders both to the local bishops as well as to the other clergy, in order that the work becomes more effective and direct. The diversity of the flock of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, which incorporates, apart from the Greeks from Greece and Cyprus, Arabs, Slavs, Russians, Serbs, local indigenous people and every Orthodox Christian residing on the African continent, renders the work extremely complex. It is essential that Ecclesiastical order and tradition be preserved, together with the spiritual and national self-consciousness.
Indeed, during the year which is ending we made many pastoral visits to Holy Archbishoprics of our Patriarchate, specifically the following:
The Holy Metropolis of Kenya and Irenoupolis (4 April) on our way to the Congo, where we discussed the missionary issues of this important district of our Throne.
The Holy Metropolis of Central Africa (5 – 10 April), for the enthronement of His Eminence Ignatios of Central Africa where, apart from the purely spiritual, missionary and pastoral work, we met officials and members of the local government.
The Holy Metropolis of Carthage and specifically the country of Morocco (5 – 11 June). The visit was completely successful as, due to the fact that a few days prior to our visit a terrorist attack had occurred in the city of Casablanca, the government officials and the people were strengthened by our presence there, and so not only was the position of the Patriarchate enhanced, but also the needs of the Greek Community and of the Orthodox were satisfied.
The Holy Metropolis of Johannesburg and Pretoria (30 September – 6 October), where we celebrated the consecration of the Holy Church of the Unmercenaries, Triomf, and of the Seminary alongside, which is for the preparation of new clergy, while we also had the opportunity of communicating with the Greeks there, and the local officials.
The Holy Metropolis of Zimbabwe (6 – 14 October) where we visited the regions of the Metropolis and Mozambique and celebrated the consecration of the Holy Church of St Nektarios for the natives of Harare, as well as the opening of the clinic next door, and also of the adjacent areas, which will substantially serve the missionary work there.
The Holy Metropolis of Pelousion (Port Said – 26 October), where with the support of the Patriarchate, the local bishop and General Patriarchal Vicar Irenaios, completed the renovation of the Metropolitan Mansion.
The Holy Metropolis of Leontopolis (Ismailia – 16 November) where, together with His Eminence Dionysios we took possession of the renovated building in Ismailia and celebrated the centenary of the founding of the Hellenic community of Ismailia.
Visit to Cyprus (2 – 6 May) for participation in the Second Meeting of the Universal Forum of Religions and Cultures, under the title of “Ecumenism and Culture in the Era of Universalism: the Paths of Peace”, where not only opinions and thoughts were exchanged on the very interesting topic of the Symposium, but we also had the opportunity of discussing issues of the Patriarchate with many hierarchs, university professors and other politicians and artists.
Visit to Sophia, Bulgaria (8 – 12 May) where, in an honorary capacity, we participated, leading the celebrations for the fifty years of the re-establishment of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria and the one thousand six hundred years from the convocation of the Holy Synod in Gardiki. After her recent problems, the Church of Bulgaria needs the care of sister Churches. Therefore we rallied to support the Church and the people as well as the lawful and democratically elected political rulers.
Visit to Constantinople and Capadocia (17 – 21 May) where, with our brothers the Ecumenical Patriarch and Elias, the Patriarch of Georgia, we concelebrated in Prokopi.
Patriarch Bartholomaios, together with other Primates and also pilgrims from Greece, visits Capadocia, the great centre of spiritual offering to the Christian world, which is in the direct jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople, to jointly honour the place where sainthood blossomed and great Ecclesiastical personalities acted (St Basil the Great, Amphilochios of Iconium, etc).
Furthermore, following another invitation of the Patriarch of Constantinople, we visited His see (21 – 29 July) and officiated in an honorary capacity at the celebrations of the Holy Churches of St Paraskeve and St Panteleimon on their feast days.
An official peaceful visit to the Church of Romania (5 – 11 September) within the scope of exchange of official visits between the Primates of sister Churches. His Beatitude brother Theoktistos Patriarch of Romania reserved a warm welcome and hospitality for us in his Church, while the President of the country honoured us with the Great Cross of the State. During our stay there we performed three con-celebrations and consecrations of holy churches, we admired the piety of the Romanian people and its dedication to the Church and accepted prestigious distinctions from governors and mayors of Northern Romania, especially Transylvania, where we stayed for the majority of our visit.
Official visit to Thessaloniki (29 October – 3 November) where as the Chairman of the Honorary Committee we blessed the opening, the works and the closing of the 38th Dimitria 2003, under the title of “Christian Macedonia: Thessaloniki – Alexandria. This very important scientific Symposium has not only revealed aspects of history and of the contribution of the city of Alexandria to the Christian world through the great men of the Church, but it also proved the very close relationships between the two cities, Thessaloniki and Alexandria, as well the exchange of cultural goods between them. On the fringe of the Symposium we had meetings with the officials of the city (Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, Governor of Thessaloniki etc), we spoke at a function of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki and visited the See of the Metropolis of Kitros in Katerini and other places in Pieria.
Finally, we again visited Thessaloniki (10 – 13 December) heading a group of Hierarchs of the Throne and Hellenes from Africa, and participated in the 5th General Assembly of the “Council of Hellenes Abroad” (SAE). During our saty in Thessaloniki, apart from our meeting with the most senior political leaders of Greece and the representatives of other Churches, we collaborated with His Beatitude Christodoulos Archbishop of Greece and with many political and other officials and missionary Societies for the assistance of our missionary effort.
RECEPTION OF OFFICIAL VISITORS
Following an invitation from us, the Primate Archbishop Savvas of Poland and All Warsaw paid an official visit to the Alexandrian Church (6 – 14 February) during which the high ecclesiastical visitor enjoyed the beauty of the land of the Nile, the hospitality of the Patriarchate and so the brotherly and healthy relationships between the two Churches and people were consolidated.
Following our invitation a corresponding visit was also paid by the Primate Archbishop Nicholas of the Czech and Slovak Republic (15 – 20 October) who admired the conciliation between the local authorities and the Patriarchate and the harmonious co-existence of Muslims and Christians, both in Cairo and in Alexandria.
Official and formal visits were paid by political leaders, as His Excellency Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs responsible for Church matters and Hellenes abroad Mr I Mangriotis (13 – 15 July), who showed real interest in promoting the issues of the Patriarchate and of the Hellenic Communities of Alexandria and Cairo.
At our See we also welcomed His Excellency the Romanian Ambassador to Egypt, Mr Marcel Dinu (Alexandria, 19 July), His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kenya Mr Stefen Kalonzo Musyoka (Alexandria, 16 August), and Dr Ghazi Hanania, Dr Ramy Khoury and Telal El Garib, representatives of President Arafat (Alexandria, 15 November) with whom we discussed interesting topics, while they all expressed their respect to history and the progress of our Ancient Patriarchate.
We participated in functions of honour, in Alexandria and Cairo, for the departure of the Greek Ambassador to Egypt Mr D Konstantinou and in the corresponding welcome of the new Ambassador Mr P Vlassopoulos. The relations between the Patriarchate and the representative of Greece in Egypt, while they reveal the interest of the Greek Government in the Patriarchate, fortify its position in Egypt and contribute to the facilitation and solution of current problems. Both the previous Ambassador and the present one are distinguished by their love for the Church and their unreserved support for our work, with obvious results in the course of the Patriarchal work and the Hellenes of Egypt.
In the scope of receptions, finally, we received many visitors and pilgrims from Greece and Cyprus, as also from Serbia and elsewhere. Through its completed work, the Patriarchate is no longer respected only for its history and its heyday of the past, ancient and recent, but also for the manner in which it operates internally and projects itself externally, with the result that it attracts many visitors, who, on returning to their homes, proclaim our efforts and struggles and so become the best and surest interpreters and heralds of our work.
CONVOCATION OF THE HOLY SYNOD
Following the passing of His Eminence Timotheos, Archbishop of Central Africa, the immediate filling of the vacant and important Archbishopric was deemed essential, due to the rich missionary work going on there, through the convocation of the Holy Synod (14 March). During this, His Eminence Ignatios was elected Archbishop of Central Africa and His Grace Ioakeim was elected Bishop of Zambia. They are two people who took over these seats worthily, the first because for many years he served the mission in the country of the Congo with devotion to the Patriarchate and with unselfishness and the second because for many years he offered his concerted efforts to the Patriarchate from his position as Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod. The ordinations of both took place in the Patriarchal Church of St Savvas with the participation of many hierarchs and visitors from Greece and elsewhere, for they are both well-known and loved people.
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate elevated Theokletos, Bishop of Heliopolis to Titular Archbishop, renamed His Eminence Philemon, former Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam as Titular Archbishop of Kavasos, His Eminence Kyrillos, former Archbishop o Zimbabwe as Titular Archbishop of Nafkratis, His Grace Porphyrios former Bishop of Bukoba as Bishop of Syine and His Grace Petros, former Bishop of Zambia as Bishop of Nikopolis.
Despite the fact the Holy Synod took place in a relatively short time since the previous one, their Eminences the Synodal Archbishops presented the completed works of their regions and ways were discussed on how the goals set could be attained and these will be discussed more extensively and analytically at the convocation of the next Holy Synod in the new year.
THE COUNCIL OF CHURCHES OF THE MIDDLE EAST
The Council of Churches of the Middle East constitutes an important institution not only for its multifaceted activity in various programmes of philanthropic and social character, but also because the four Christian families of which it is made up (Orthodox, Pre-Chalcedonian, Roman Catholic and Protestant), work together and support each other in their work.
As President we presided over the Family of the Orthodox (Patriarchate of Alexandria, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Church of Cyprus) in the business of the Administrative Committee in Cyprus (January) and in Amman, Jordan (May), while we also participated in the meeting of the Presidents (Cairo, 6 November). We also co-presided over the 8th General Assembly (Limassol, Cyprus 1 – 5 December) where we were re-elected as President of the Family of Orthodox Churches.
As is well known, the Liturgical life constitutes the centre of ecclesiastical experience and for this reason we take care that all the Holy Churches in Egypt and on the entire African continent in our jurisdiction are used for liturgical purposes, by setting the example first through our “Patriarchal Attendances” and our participation in the feasts of the Holy Churches.
Indicatively we refer to the performing of the bloodless sacrifice during the Festal celebrations of the Holy Church of St Anthony of the Arab-speaking community (17 January), the established Memorial of the Missionaries (26 January), the Festal celebrations of the Holy Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Aboukir (2 February), the Festal celebrations of the Holy Monastery of St George in Old Cairo (1 May), the Memorial of our Predecessor Patriarchs of blessed memory Nicholas VI and Parthenios I (13 July), the celebration of the National Anniversaries of 25 March and 28 October, the Memorial of the benefactress of the Patriarchate Anne Mamma (14 September), while we also performed the Blessing of the Waters for the start of the new academic year at the Schools and Educational Institutes of Alexandria (12 September), etc.
Also, with Patriarchal and polyhierarchal con-celebrations, we celebrated at the Patriarchate the 6th anniversary of our election to the rudder of the Alexandrian Church (21 February), the Sunday of Orthodoxy (16 March) as well as the memory of our Holy Hieromartyr and Predecessor of blessed memory Petros, during which we celebrate our Name Day (Cairo, 24 November), while we also celebrated the Divine Liturgy for Christmas at the Holy Church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Heliopolis, Cairo.
For the funeral of our devout father Panayiotis Papapetrou we went to Cyprus (11 April) and also to Athens for the Service of the Departed for Timotheos, Archbishop of Central Africa (5 March).
During the year we had many opportunities of meeting with the Primate of the Church of Greece Archbishop Christodoulos, who in manifold ways and means assists and supports our work, especially the missionary effort.
In order to push forward our petitions and to solve our problems, we had the ability and opportunity of meeting with many dignitaries of Greece and Cyprus, as for example, their Excellencies the Greek Minister of Culture Mr E Venizelos, the President of Greek Parliament Mr A Kaklamanis, the Deputy Ministers of External Affairs and of Finance Messrs I Mangriotis and N Farmakis, as well as the President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus Mr D Christofias.
We also met with the Patriarch of the Melchites Gregory III (Cairo,24 January), Pope Shenouda, Primate of the Coptic Church (Alexandria, 8 November), and, following an invitation we participated in the functions of the Association of Hellenes from Egypt (Athens, 3 November), in meetings of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria and the Hellenic Brotherhood of Cypriots in Egypt.
CONSTRUCTION AND OTHER WORKS
The renovation of the monuments and the ecclesiastical and other buildings, as you know, is one of our basic priorities and pursuits and for this reason we seek financiers, we spend much time researching the relative matters and personally watch over the progress of the works.
It is apparent that they are progressing and during the year the works on the Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos will be completed, so that the Patriarchal Attendances can take place there and the faithful of Alexandria can pray there, but also that it can be admired by the visitors – pilgrims to the Patriarchate who will increase in the future.
The Church of the Annunciation, which is in the building complex of the Patriarchal Palace, whose renovation are almost completed, together with the Patriarchal Library and the Museum, are sure to constitute a jewel for Orthodoxy, a wonderful pole of attraction for the pilgrims, and naturally, will contribute to the progress and elevation of the Great City of Alexandria. Their inaugurations are programmed for the autumn of the new year, with the participation of many ecclesiastical leaders and political officials from Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and elsewhere.
Corresponding works of renovation are in progress at the Holy Church of St Nicholas and the adjacent Patriarchal Vicarage in Cairo, and these will be completed at the end of the year 2004.
Although the works at the Holy Church of St Spyridon were interrupted due to the well-known procedures, we hope that they will be completed by the end of the year, while the works at the Holy Monastery of St George in Cairo are progressing quickly, as are those at the adjacent cemetery. Also, in the new year, the renovation works on the Holy Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Soubra Cairo will begin.
Finally, as you can see, the iconography of the Holy Patriarchal Church of St Savvas is progressing at an undiminished rate and we are hopeful that they will be completed during the new year 2004.
During the year 2004 we are going to visit the Church of Russia, following an invitation by His Beatitude Alexios, Patriarch of Moscow and the “Institution for the Unity of Christian Nations”, which is under the auspices of His Beatitude the Patriarch. During our stay there we will have the opportunity of discussing ecclesiastical issues with the Patriarch, as well as with our Patriarchal Exarch there, His Grace Bishop Athanasios. Also, peaceful visits to the Church of Albania and the Holy Monastery of Vatopedion on Mount Athos are being programmed.
A pastoral visit to the Holy Diocese of Madagascar has already been programmed, where we will meet with officials there, for the propulsion of the position of the Orthodox Church, and we will get to know and give a Patriarchal blessing to the children of the Church, while we hope also to pay pastoral visits to the Holy Archdioceses of Axom, Kenya and Irenoupolis, as well as the Holy Archdiocese of Dar–es–Salaam.
We are also going to receive here His Eminence the Archbishop of Finland, and maybe other leaders and Primates of Churches, who will seek to return our visits to their Sees.
As we said at the beginning of our speech, the beginning of the new year constitutes a reassessment of our goals, so that the Patriarchal work can be strengthened and that the value and importance of the Patriarchal Institution, which we serve through the Grace of God, can be stressed.
The service of the great and glorious Apostolic and Patriarchal institution is accomplished together with the worthy Reverend Archbishops, their Graces the Bishops, the other clergy, as well as all the management staff, who man the various services of the Patriarchate, who from this position we wish to thank and congratulate for their unselfishness and the dedication with which they work. As an expression of our satisfaction for the workers at the Venerable Centre, both in Cairo and Alexandria, we are going to give a 10% increase to the subsidy of the clergy and an increase in the salary of the staff according to what the law decrees.
The renovation of the monuments, the missionary effort and the teaching of the faithful children of the Church, together with the promotion of the brotherly relations with the other Orthodox and non-Orthodox Churches, and our relations with the leaders of other religions, especially the Monotheists, as well as the subsidization and finding of means for the operation of the Patriarchate and its staffing with worthy manpower and finally our relations with political powers in Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and the countries of Africa, is not an easy task. On the contrary, it is a continuous struggle of keeping the balance, with the sole criterion of the glory of the Church and the elevation of our Patriarchate, seeing that through this work man is served, as is our flock throughout Africa and the Most Holy Name of God is glorified.
With the opportunity of this present communication, we ask that you pray for the realization of our common visions and our good intentions and that you will participate in their completion in every way, and also that you pray for the strengthening of our collaborators. We ask of our Lord to open doors of assistance to us for the completion of our entire effort, a compound and tiring effort, which is though for the benefit of the Church.
We wish to all of you, that the Lord who was born in Bethlehem and received His Baptism in the Jordan, will grant you His rich blessings and grace and to give you all health and joy and furthermore, to grant peace and prosperity to the world. Amen.