The Burial of late Patriarch Petros VII - 15/09/04 (English)
THE BURIAL OF PETROS VII, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA OF BLESSED MEMORY
By Panayiotis Tzoumerkas
Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, one of the great Patriarchs to bless and brighten the ancient throne of St Mark despite the brevity of his Patriarchate, was buried with the honours of a head of state and in an emotionally charged ceremony.
The funeral of our Patriarch of Blessed Memory took place on September 15 2004, at the historic Monastery of St George in Old Cairo. His relics were transported from Athens to Cairo in a C130 aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force. Prior to its arrival at the Airport of the Egyptian capital, the Ecumenical Patriarch, accompanied by Metropolitan Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania and many hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, arrived by special flight. All, on an Olympic Airways special flight, the following all arrived in Cairo: The President of the Hellenic Republic Mr K Stephanopoulos accompanied by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, the Minister of Education Mrs M. Yannakou-Koutsikou who also represented the Greek Government, the first Vice President of the Hellenic Parliament Mr George Sourlas, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Mr P Skandalakis, and the Deputy Minister of Culture Mr Petrol Tatoulis. Mr Stephanopoulos was also accompanied by ministers from all the parties of Parliament, the the Dean of the Theological Faculty of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki Mr Ch Oikonomou, many hierarchs and service agents. The President of the Hellenic Republic was met on behalf of the President of Egypt My Mubarak by the Egyptian Minister of the Environment Mr Maged Zorz. Also, Mr Dimitrios Christofias, President of the Cypriot Parliament and cousin of the late Patriarch, the Ex-President of EDEK Mr Vasos Lissarides and Mr P Georgiades the Education Minister who represented the Cyprus Government also arrived at Cairo Airport on a special flight of Cypriot Airlines. The representatives from Cyprus were accompanied also by the President of the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Paphos, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kition, Bishop Kyrillos of Naukratis, and Bishop Athanasios of Cyrene as well as a vast number of clergy and family members of the late Patriarch. It is necessary to note at this point that the Egyptian authorities, in welcoming the high-ranking guests, for the first time ever o0ened up the President’s hall at the airport and offered unreserved hospitality and support, as well as a multitude of services and facilities. The welcoming co-ordination was handled by the Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus Messrs P Valassopoulos and F Anastasiou, together with many members of the diplomatic and consular staff.
Following the arrival of the C130 aircraft, all the officials walked to where it had come to a standstill and received the relics of the late Patriarch, whose coffin was dropped in the flags of Greece and Cyprus. During the reception members of the Egyptian armed forces rendered honours of a head of state to the late spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christians of the African Continent. Following the reception, all went together in procession to the Holy Monastery of St George in Old Cairo. Along the entire journey, the Egyptian Government had stopped the traffic and on both sides of the road members of the army and the police force rendered honours to the passing relics of the Patriarch.
Thousands of people from Egypt, Africa and all corners of the planet had gathered from very early on to say a final farewell to their spiritual father, a father who traveled across Africa from end to end to listen to the beats of their pained hearts, to strengthen them and to ease their pain, to bolster their failing courage, to make them strong and able to stand tall. At the entrance to the Holy Monastery the students and scouts (Greek and Arab-speaking) surrounded the coffin and entered the church as his honour guard. The entire ceremony was coordinated by Bishop Alexios of Nitria and the burial coordination was undertaken by Bishop Theophylaktos of Babylon (Old Cairo).
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The funeral service began at 17h00 led by the first-ranking Elder Metropolitan Paul of Memphis, together with all the members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The bereavement was born by Bishop Alexandros of Nigeria, Bishop Theophylaktos of Babylon, Bishop George of Nilopolis and Bishop Ioakeim of Zambia.From an ecclesiastical part the funeral was attended by: Vartholomaios the Ecumenical Patriarch, Ignatios Patriarch of Antioch, Irenaios Patriarch of Jerusalem, Christodoulos Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, and there were also representatives of the Orthodox Churches of Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Czech and Slovak Republic and Finland. Present also were Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Church, Cardinal Waltar Kaspar representing the Vatican, the Roman Archbishop of Alexandria, as well as representatives of the Armenian, Syro-Jacobean, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical and Melchite Churches, together with high-ranking representatives of Islam.
From the political side apart from the high-ranking guests from Greece and Cyprus, the Minister of the Environment of Egypt and many diplomatic and consular officials also attended. The Orthodox communities were represented by the Presidents of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria Mr H Katsimbris, of Cairo Mr H Kavalis, as well as the President of the Arab-speaking Orthodox Community Mr Rober Hosni. The Vice President of SAE (Society of Hellenes Abroad) Mr Stephanos Tamvakis and the Coordinator of Asia-Africa Mr Basil Magdalinos, all the leaders of the Societies and Associations of Egypt and the Orthodox Communities of Africa also attended. Finally, all the office-bearers, officials and great benefactors of the Patriarchate also attended.
After the end of the funeral, Metropolitan Dionysios of Leontopolis read the eulogy on behalf of the Holy Synod. In his speech the grey-haired metropolitan referred to the rich and multifaceted work on the entire African continent of the late Patriarch, making special mention his enormous contribution to the spreading of Orthodoxy in even the farthest corners of Africa. At the same time he prayed that a worthy successor will be found who, with the same fervour, intensity and strength will continue this multifaceted work. The Ecumenical Patriarch also read a speech. He described the tireless struggle of the late Patriarch fore spreading of the Gospel throughout Africa, stressing that he offered everything possible to the unity of the Churches as well as to the avoidance of fanaticism. In ending he too expressed the hope that an able successor be found to give of his service with zeal to the Patriarchate and to the flock. Speeches were also made by the Minister of Education of the Greek Government, the Presidents of the Communities of Alexandria, Cairo, and the Arab-speaking Christians. Finally, o n behalf of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate, Archbishop Seraphim thanked in Greek and in English all who attended the funeral service of the late Pope and Patriarch PetrosVII.
Once the funeral orations were over and while the Hierarchs of the Patriarchate were singing the feme of the Patriarch, the coffin bearing his relics, carried by clergy of the Patriarchate was taken outside the church and placed in a special crypt next to the tombs of the other Patriarchs of Alexandria beneath the church of St George. During the placement in the crypt, the visibly emotional crowd sand “Christ is Risen”, in this way bidding farewell to their Patriarch, their shepherd, their own person.
At the reception hall of the Monastery, which was renovated from scratch through the efforts of His Beatitude, coffee was offered after which the high-ranking guests from Greece and Cyprus departed on the special flights of Olympic and Cyprus Airways.
Finally, on the night of the same day, the Hellenic Community of Cairo hosted an official dinner to honour the memory of the late Patriarch, which was attended by the Vartholomaios the Ecumenical Patriarch, all the representatives of the Orthodox Churches as well as the many other representatives of religious, political, diplomatic and community officials. The consolatory speech was made by Archbishop Anastasikos of Tirana and All Albania.
Bending our knee before his venerable person, we pray to the Master of all and our Lord that “His servant of His laws who has passed on be resurrected to eternal life”
the Most Blessed, Most Divine, and our All Holy
Father and Prelate, Pope and Patriarch
of the Great City of Alexandria, all Egypt and all Africa,
Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Hierarch of Hierarchs,
one hundred and thirteenth of the Apostles and Judge of the Universe,