5th Anniversary of H.B. Petros VII
5th anniversary of H.B. Petros VII elevation to the Patriarchal Throne
by H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis
(Holy Patriarchal Church of St. Savvas, Alexandria, 21/02/02)
Your Excellency, Dear Bothers in Christ,
We have gathered in this Holy place today to honour our Blessed Patriarch who today celebrates the 5th anniversary of his elevation to the Patriarchal Throne, as 115th successor of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, founder and Patron Saint of the Alexandrian Church.
It is not by chance that we celebrated today in this place the ultimate Sacrament of our Church which is the Holy Eucharist, because it is here that five years ago, on a particularly icy day in February 1997, Petros, Bishop of Cameroun, by vote of clergy and people, was elected Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. That day might well have been icy, however the result of the poll warmed the hearts of the faithful and brought hope, joy and exultation.
As on that day, so too today do we give praise and hymns to the Most Merciful God and the All-Holy Spirit who deemed the historical Church of Alexandria worthy to acquire the most suitable leader who would lead it in days of regeneration, who would lead it into the new millennium worthily and deservedly responding to the needs of the times, but also continuing concurrently the God-pleasing work of its venerable and holy predecessors.
When our Lord sent his disciples to spread the Gospel of love to all nations, He called on them to preach the Gospel and the Kingdom of God to all the earth because the people’s thirst is vast, the harvest great, the workers few. He sent them out to water with the water of divine life, to harvest the faith and piety of word, which was sown by the Prophets. He sent them to labour with all their might and to work with ardent zeal to spread the true faith and to make firm the holy Kingdom of God.
He stressed too that, because the people among whom they would walk, suffer and agonize, and because preaching must be accompanied by holy works so that it can be accepted and bear fruit in the souls of the faithful, He gave them divine power and authority to do wonders through miracles of grace and compassion, to benefit all faithful and pious people, to alleviate their pain and to save them from their sufferings.
Our Blessed Patriarch also faithfully follows this command and admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ not only since his elevation to the Patriarchal Throne, but also from the day that he entered the bosom of the Church to serve her as a faithful and humble servant of the Lord. In this way, faithfully following the Lord’s instructions to His disciples, today, on the fifth anniversary of his election as Patriarch, he is with our suffering African brothers who live in the poor and unfortunate country of the Congo, giving them relief, hope and love. Conveying to them, among other things, a message of peace, the peace of God, so much so, that the local media justifiably call him an “Angel of Peace”.
A point worthy of note is that the last time a Presiding Head of the Alexandrian Throne visited the pious flock in the Congo was 30 years ago and no other Patriarch has ever attempted to visit the accessibly difficult areas in which His Beatitude finds himself today. With these visits he morally and materially strengthens the Greek and native faithful and contributes to the upliftment and validity of Orthodoxy in Africa.
However it is not only his pastoral visits to the length and breadth of the African continent and the land of the Nile that characterize the Patriarchate of Petros VII, but so much more which we will attempt to mention briefly.
Following the custom and the tradition of the Orthodox Church, in the last five years His Beatitude paid official visits to the sister Churches of Constantinople, Antioch, Russia, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, Czech and Slovakia, as well as the Church of Armenia.
He welcomed to his seat Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, Archbishop Anastasios of Tyranna and All Albania, Archbishop Savvas of Warsaw and All Poland, Patriarch Shenouda of the Coptic Church, Patriarch Aram of the Armenian Church, Patriarch Gregory of the Melchite Church and a host of other prelates and clerical dignitaries.
He also met with Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries such as those of the Motherland of Greece, his personal homeland of Cyprus, of Poland, Czech and Slovakia, Romania, Armenia, Syria, the Kingdom of Jordan, and with many other political, state, diplomatic and military dignitaries. At all his meetings he always finds the opportunity to discuss and enlighten on many topics concerning Hellenism as well as the Cypriot problem.
He has laid the foundations and opened and inaugurated a great many holy churches not only in Africa but also in Greece and Cyprus. He has inaugurated many philanthropic and generally beneficial institutions as well as museums. He has chaired and participated in many conventions of a Christian and Monastic character as well as in many others such as the S.A.E. (Society of Greeks Living Abroad) and the Egyptians, and others. He always supports dialogue between Christians and non-Christians.
His co-operation with the authorities of the Egyptian State is faultless and admirable. Due to his personal contact and good will and co-operation, in his person, not only Orthodoxy but also Hellenism are honoured. Proof of this recognition is the protection afforded by the Egyptian State to every movement of His Beatitude both within and outside of Egypt.
Faultless and admirable co-operation also exists with the diplomatic representatives of Greece and Cyprus as well as with all the Greek communities, organizations, societies, associations and institutions connected with Orthodoxy and Hellenism both in Egypt and in all of Africa. He constantly reinforces in every way possible the creation of educational institutions, hospitals, clinics, homes for the aged for the protection and relief of the aged, and orphanages. He puts into practice a system of scholarships for young people who wish to broaden their studies. He personally supervises the operation and organization of the programme of the Patriarchal Seminary in Kenya.
As far as publications are concerned, he has upgraded the already existing printed matter of the Patriarchate and has reissued others, which had ceased publication many years ago. Through his personal interest thousands of printed translations of the liturgical treasure of Orthodoxy in African dialects are in circulation, together with articles which become comprehensible to our African brothers and sisters.
He has appointed an Exarch to the capital of the Russian State and through his personal efforts has acquired as a Patriarchal Dependency an exquisite church with adjacent useful buildings. In Athens he has achieved the return of the Dependency of St Athanasios to Patriarchal ownership.
He has created Episcopacies for the improved pastoral care of the faithful and has re-staffed the Archbishoprics and Episcopacies of the Throne with active, ardent and educated bishops, as well as all the offices of the Patriarchate with young clergy who thirst for work and offering.
Despite the shrinkage in Hellenism in Egypt he has re-opened all the Churches, he has cultivated the best possible relations with the Arabic Orthodox flock and has ordained young clergy who are members of the Arabic Orthodox Community.
As far as the youth are concerned he is always beside them and under his guidance Christian youth movements and Sunday Schools have been founded and operate throughout the continent of Africa.
He has created a Patriarchal web-page on the Internet and has pioneered almost daily information regarding the activities and movement of both the Patriarch and the Patriarchate.
It would be a huge omission not to mention his great zeal for the reconstruction and renovation of the central Patriarchal Complex through the construction of a hypermodern museum and library, the reconstruction from foundation phase of both the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of St Savva as well as of the Patriarchal Church, the renovation of many churches and buildings in Alexandria and Cairo, and many other cities in Egypt, the creation of a museum in the Holy Monastery of St George in Old Cairo, the reconstruction, also from the foundation phase, of the Holy Church of the Theotokos in the Cemetery of the above-mentioned Monastery and of the crypt in which the Holy Family sought shelter.
Finally, we must not forget that through his recommendation the Holy Synod of our Patriarchate apologized to the Saint of our century, St Nektarios the wonderworker, triumphantly reinstating his holy memory and opening the personal apartment of the Saint in Cairo, in order that the faithful might visit it and receive his grace and blessing.
I am certain that the things which I have mentioned do not completely cover the untiring activity and multifaceted task of His Beatitude who labours daily for the preservation and spreading of Orthodox tradition throughout Africa as well keeping alight the lamp of Orthodoxy which for over two thousand years has been burning in this place. He encourages the spread of Orthodoxy to every corner of Africa and participates actively in the finding of solutions for the prevalence of peace, conciliation and co-operation among the peoples of the earth. He brings unity to Orthodoxy, a message of hope to Africa; he cultivates a climate of trust and co-operation among all people and his ministry is one of love, peace and progress.
For all these reasons and many others, we have an obligation and a duty to stand at the side of this great personality and to pray day and night to the Highest “ Among the first, O Lord, remember our Father and Archbishop, Pope and Patriarch Petros, granting him to Thy holy churches in peace, safety, honour, health and length of days, rightly to define the word of thy truth”. Amen!