7th Anniversary - February 2004 (English)
THE 7th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ELECTION OF THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA
By His Grace Bishop George of Niloupolis
Patriarchal Vicar of Alexandria
The 7th anniversary of the election and elevation to the Alexandrian Throne of His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, was celebrated with the participation of crowds of faithful and with exceptional grandeur in Alexandria.
On Saturday 21 February 2004, a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Cathedral of St Savvas and celebrating with His Beatitude were His Eminence Archbishop Irenaios of Pilousion, His Eminence Archbishop Nicholas of Ermoupolis, His Eminence Archbishop Dimitrios of Cameroun, His Grace Bishop George of Niloupolis and the entire body of Alexandrian clergy.
The sermon was preached by His Eminence Dimitrios, Archbishop of Cameroon who, among other things, praised the person of the Patriarch and referred to the enormous effort which has been carried out in all of Africa over the past seven years. The full speech is as follows:
“Your Beatitude, Father and Bishop,
We, your spiritual children from every corner of the African continent have gathered here today, clergy and laity, in order to honour you, one of the greatest personalities of modern Orthodoxy, the spiritual leader of Orthodoxy on the African continent, for today you are celebrating the 7th anniversary of your elevation to the Ancient Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria, as a successor of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark.
Here, in this exact place, on the 21st February 1997, His Eminence Petros, Archbishop of Cameroon, by the vote of clergy and laity, was elected Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. The result of this voting process warmed the hearts of the faithful and brought hope, joy and elation to every corner of the African continent.
As all over Africa then, so today, we give praise and hymns to the All Gracious God and the All Holy Spirit, who deigned that the Apostolic Church of Alexandria should obtain a competent leader, the spiritual guide who would lead it worthily into the new millennium, to days of regeneration living up to the needs of the times, but at the same time also continuing the work of his venerable and holy predecessors.
Our Lord sent out His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations. Your Beatitude, you have also faithfully followed this command and advice of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only from the time of your elevation to the Patriarchal Throne, but from the time that you entered the bosom of the Church, to serve it as a faithful and humble servant of the Lord, as a true Missionary.
And so, you are to be found almost always journeying among our suffering African brethren who live on the poor African continent, relieving them, giving them hope and love, bringing the message of peace, progress and conciliation. It is then just that you are called the ‘Angel of Peace’ during your many missionary journeys.
It is certainly worth mentioning that the zeal and love for missionary work which discern you, make you visit even the most inaccessible areas, which have never before been attempted by any other Patriarch. Through these visits you morally and materially strengthen not only the Hellenes, but also the indigenous faithful and in this way you contribute to the extolling of the repute of Orthodoxy in Africa.
However, it is not only your pastoral sojourns on the African continent which characterize your position as Patriarch – in the past seven years you have paid official visits to almost all the sister Churches, including the Church of Armenia.
You have received in your see Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Archbishop Savvas of Warsaw and All Poland, Archbishop Nicholas of the Czech and Slovak Republics, Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Church, Patriarch Aram of Armenia, Patriarch Gregory of the Melchites and a multitude of other hierarchs and ranking clergy.
You have met with the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the motherland of Greece, of your personal motherland of Cyprus, of Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Romania, Armenia, Syria and the Kingdom of Jordan, with politicians, heads of state, diplomatic and military officials throughout Europe and Africa. In all your meetings, you always find the opportunity to discuss the Cyprus problem as well as matters concerning Hellenes.
You have laid foundation stones, conducted inaugurations and opened many Holy Churches in Africa, Greece and Cyprus. You have inaugurated philanthropic institutions, other institutions of public benefit and even museums. You have presided over and participated in many conferences of an inter-Christian, inter-faith and monastic nature, as also at those of the Middle East Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, S.A.E. (the Society of Hellenes Abroad), Egyptian societies and the Pan African Council of Churches.
Your co-operation with the officials of the Egyptian State is impeccable. Thanks to your personal contacts, good will and co-operation, Orthodoxy and Hellenism is honoured through you. Proof of this recognition is the protection which the Egyptian State affords your every movement, Your Beatitude, both in and outside of Egypt.
Your admirable co-operation with the diplomatic representatives of Greece and Cyprus as well as with all the Hellenic Communities, organizations, societies, associations and institutions both in Egypt and throughout Africa, gives courage, strength and unity to the Hellenes who have remained. You constantly reinforce in many ways the creation of educational institutions, hospitals, clinics, old age homes and orphanages. You have set in place the scholarship system for the youth who wish to further their studies and you personally oversee the operation and organization of the programme of the Patriarchal Seminary in Kenya.
In the publication sector you upgraded the already existing printed matter of the Patriarchate and republished many that had ceased publication many years previously. Through your own personal interest thousands of printed copies of translated liturgical books, catechetical material and circulars in African dialects have been distributed.
You appointed an Exarch to Moscow, capital of the Russian State and a very beautiful Church with adjacent buildings was obtained there as a Dependency of our Patriarchate. In Athens you achieved the return of the Dependency of St Athanasios to the rule of the Patriarchate.
You created new Archdioceses and Dioceses for the greater efficiency of the missionary effort and you staffed them with hard-working, bright and educated Greek, Arab and African Bishops who thirst for contribution and are filled with missionary zeal.
Despite the diminishing numbers of Hellenes in Egypt you have made sure that all the Churches are open, and you have developed the best possible relations with your Arab-speaking flock, ordaining new priests from among members of the Arabic Orthodox Community.
You are always close to the youth and under your guidance Christian youth movements and catechetical schools have been established and are working throughout the African continent.
You created a website for the Patriarchate on the net and you are pioneering in your almost daily information about your activities and movements.
It would be a great omission if your enormous zeal for the restoration and renovation of the Patriarchal Palace and of the Vicarage of Cairo were not mentioned, as also the creation of the ultramodern museum and library, the total reconstruction of both the Patriarchal Monastery of St Savvas and of the Patriarchal Church, as well as the renewal of many churches and church buildings in Alexandria, in Cairo and in most of the other towns in Egypt, the creation of a museum at the Holy Monastery of St George in Old Cairo, the total reconstruction of the Holy Church of the Theotokos in the Cemetery of the above-mentioned Monastery, as well as the crypt where the Holy Family took refuge.
Finally, we should not forget that, following your suggestion, the Holy Synod of our Patriarchate took the historic decision to ask forgiveness of St Nektarios the Wonderworker, Bishop of Pentapolis, triumphantly reinstating his holy memory, while also opening the Saint’s hermitage in Cairo, in order that the faithful Christians could visit it and receive his grace and his blessing.
Your Beatitude, certainly all that I have mentioned does not cover all your untiring activities and your multi-faceted work for the preservation and spreading of the Orthodox faith and tradition throughout Egypt and all of Africa. It is activity and work which actively contributes to the finding of solutions for the prevalence of peace, of conciliation, of unity and co-operation among the nations of Africa. It cultivates a climate of trust and co-operation among all people and serves love, peace and progress.
For all the above reasons, we, the clergy and people have an obligation and a duty to be always by the side of the Patriarch of love, the Patriarch of sacrifice, the missionary Patriarch, and to pray for him night and day – “At the first remember, O Lord, our Pope and Patriarch Petros, grant him to Your holy Churches in peace, safety, honour, health and length of days, rightly to define the word of Your truth”. Amen.
His Beatitude then spoke and thanked the speaker for his comprehensive speech, the Holy Synod, the Bishops, Clergy of the Alexandrian Throne, all the missionaries throughout Africa, the Ambassadorial and Consular Officials, the Hellenic and Arab Orthodox Communities, the African faithful, and all who in various ways support the Patriarchate in its difficult struggle over the entire African Continent, making special mention of the support of the Greek Government for the work of the Patriarchate.
The Patriarch then went to the Great Hall of the Patriarchal Monastery where a reception was hosted and he received wishes.
This great celebration was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Alexandria Mrs Constantina Athanasiadou, the President of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria Haralambos Katsimbris, Community officials, the President of the Arab Orthodox Community Gabriel Nakash, the President of the Hellenic Community of Cairo Christos Kavalis, Chairmen and members of Hellenic Societies and Associations of Alexandria and Cairo, Diplomatic and Community dignitaries, the teachers and pupils of the Hellenic schools of Alexandria, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides with their leaders, crowds of faithful, as well as a great number of pilgrims from Greece.
On the evening of Friday 20 February 2004, the Patriarch attended a programme of artistic music dedicated to Angelos Volonakis, which was held at the Consular Residence, at the initiative of the Consul General of Greece in Alexandria Mrs Constantina Athanasiadou and with the co-operation of the Commercial (Mercantile) Bank of Greece, the Hellenic Community of Alexandria and the Youth Union of Alexandria. Artists from Greece participated in the concert. On the evening of 21 February 2004, the Patriarch attended a theatrical performance of “The Dream Keepers” presented at the Julia Salvagou Hall by the members of the theatrical group of the Commercial Bank of Greece.