THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA BLESSES MASSIVE BAPTISMS IN GHANA
The morning of Monday, September 30th, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa was visited by the Executive Committee of the National Council of Christian Churches in Ghana, of which the Orthodox Church is a member. Members of the delegation were: Rev. Dr. Robert Aboagye Menson, General Secretary of the Council; Rev. J.A.A. Solomon; Dr. Gesydney Williams; and Rev. J. Kumaha. The meeting was very amicable. The Patriarch marked that the Patriarchate of Alexandria always supports dialogue among the various Christian doctrines and asks for mutual cooperation. He then referred to the fact that the Church of Alexandria is a member of the World Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches and the All African Council of Churches. Rev. Dr. Menson, on behalf of the Executive Committee, expressed his gratitude at the Orthodox Church of Ghana being a full member of the Council and marked the Orthodox Church's great contribution to the social needs of the nation.
That evening, at the Cathedral of Accra, the Patriarch blessed a massive baptism of faithful coming from the village of Breman. The new baptized Christians were catechized by Fr. Anastasios Nkrumah and received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and Chrismation from their Patriarch during his first pastoral visit to Ghana. The whole service reminded those present of the early years of the Church. Despite the tough weather conditions, His Beatitude, in triple submersions and in the name of the Holy Trinity, baptized every single one at the baptistery which was built for such occasions and located outside the main entrance of the Cathedral. Right after the conclusion of the service he distributed crosses, icons, crayons and chocolates to the children.
Later on the Patriarch met with the clergy, the orthodox women and the orthodox youth. Bishop Panteleimon addressed the Patriarch. His Beatitude addressed those present with words of love from the depths of his heart. He revised the duties of the clergy and marked that they should always stand with their Bishop and their parishioners. He continued to exhort everyone to focus on their spiritual progress and that of the members of their parishes, keeping in mind that their motive should always be what benefits the Church. While addressing the orthodox women, he spoke of the contribution of women in building a healthy and Christian society by referring to the example of the Virgin Mary, Who gave birth to our Savior Jesus Christ. Finally he addressed the orthodox youth, referring to the need and importance of participating in the Holy Sacraments of the Church to aid in the salvation of the soul and to grant solutions to the various needs of man. The Patriarch marked that the youth is the future of the Church and that it is up to the youth to build a better society and a better future for the world, which is the creation of God. Finally the Patriarch answered various questions addressed by those present. At the end of the meeting, the clergy, the orthodox women and the orthodox youth presented their Patriarch and the members of his entourage with various gifts of local art and sung various Orthodox hymns, the 'feme' and the 'polychronion' thus expressing their joy at the presence of their Patriarch being amongst them. His Beatitude distributed to the clergy special material to be used as covers for the Holy Chalice and Patten. He also gave out icons, coloured pencils and chocolates for the children. Again, he also promised that his prayers would always be with them.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA VISITS THE EAST REGION OF GHANA
On Tuesday morning, October 1st, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa visited the city of Larteh, located on a mountain in the east region of Ghana.
The Patriarch was welcomed at the gate of the city by hundreds of Orthodox youth who escorted him to the main square of the town while holding Greek flags and singing in Tswi 'Blessed is him who comes in the name of the Lord'. At the main square His Beatitude was welcomed by the King of the city Nana Asiedu Okoo, Ababio III Akuapem Guanhene, various Chiefs, Elders and many faithful. King Abadio expressed his great joy at the presence of such a distinguish guest in the ancient city of Larteh, referred to the educational system in the region and the peaceful coexistence of 19 different Christian doctrines in the town. Finally he thanked the Patriarch for the contribution of the Orthodox Church to education and for the great honor of having the Head of the Church of Alexandria himself visit the town to bless the opening of the new business school of the Orthodox Church.
His Beatitude thanked all present for the warm welcome, referred to his successful pastoral visit to Ghana, thanked the local authorities for their solidarity in working with the Orthodox Church and reassured the King that he would always stand next to his African children and that the Patriarchate of Alexandria would contribute as much as it could to the social needs of each nation within the African continent.
Then the Patriarch visited the Holy Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. There he was welcomed by the local clergy. After the completion of the doxology service His Beatitude was welcomed by Fr. Daniel Pingpong Abradu. In his speech the Patriarch said the following: 'Today I felt so happy listening to your praises and doxologies to God. I also felt your prayers to be most welcomed by God as they were prayers coming from your heart because you were not merely using your lips for singing but your heart and soul. I am so glad that I always hear about the spiritual progress of your parish. I consider my visit here today to be a great blessing. This is a sign that the Patriarch never forgets his children no matter who they are and where they are. I feel so proud of you and thank you for your respectfulness, honour and love.'
Later on the Patriarch visited the area where the new business school of Sts. Peter and Paul is under construction. There he blessed the foundation stone of the new school and the students. The school choir sung various hymns. H.G. Panteleimon, while addressing the Patriarch, referred to the importance of building such a school in the city of Larteh. His Beatitude said the following: 'The Church cares and fulfils the needs of the human body as it also cares for its soul. The body and soul should always be in a harmony, cooperation and balance. The vision, presence and function of this business school is to teach methods and ways to the students of how to accomplish meeting the needs of the body and at the same time cultivate the soul. This school is going to give the chance to its graduates to practice in life what they have learned in their studies, how to confront life with courage and meet social needs seeing them from a different point of view. You will gain a lot of experience from this school so that in the future you will be able to support yourself and your future family. I am so happy and deeply touched when I see you ready to contribute and work for society. Do not fear. Christians never loose courage. Christians always have a vision of the future. You should always have in mind that the Church gives you the tools to live this life because She is your mother and you are her children. You should live close to the Church, to your Bishop and the clergy. You should always have in mind that your Patriarch loves you and cares for you through his Bishops. I might live far away from you but my heart is always with you'.
Speeches were given by Mr. L.D. Apraku on behalf of the Chiefs and the people of Larteh; Dr. Francis Osafo Mensah, Minister in charge for east region issues; Mr. Agyare Koi Larbi, Member of the Parliament; and Mrs. Junior Quist, Governor of the region. All the speakers expressed their joy and appreciation at the presence of the Patriarch of Alexandria in the region and the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the social needs of the people of Larteh, especially for building a new business school.
A special entertainment programme followed with traditional songs and dances, various hymns sung by the school choir and a poem written by Mrs. Vida Sam to honor the Patriarch. The final speech was given by the King, who once again thanked the Patriarch for his presence, for blessing the people of Larteh and asked the Patriarch to visit the city soon. He also presented the Patriarch local art gifts. Gifts were also presented by the parish of Sts. Paul and Peter and Mrs. Junior Quist to the Patriarch. In his farewell address the Patriarch again thanked everyone for the love and honor that they had given to the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. He reassured those present that the Church of Alexandria and her Head would always stand by their side and contribute as much as they could to the social needs of the African nations.
His Beatitude distributed icons of St. Mark and coloured pencils and chocolates to the children and students. Then he departed for Accra.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA COMPLETES HIS PASTORAL VISIT TO GHANA
The pastoral visit of His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa was completed with a farewell dinner hosted by H.G. Panteleimon the evening of Tuesday, October 1st, 2002.
At the dinner, among the various guests were H.E. Irineos, Metropolitan of Pilousion; H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis; the Very Revds. Emmanouil Kiagias, Epiphanios Hatdjiyiagkou and Ioannikios Athanasiadis; Dn. Nektarios Kontogiorgos; Fr. Samuel Adjei Kumi, Fr. Alexios Edugyan and Fr. John Arthur; Mr. K. Giovas, Ambassador of Greece to Nigeria and Ghana; Mr. Ekram Mohamed Zaafarany, Ambassador of Egypt; Mr. Valery Orlov, Ambassador of Russia; Mr. Belete Reda, Ambassador of Ethiopia; Mr. Stefan Olteanu, Commercial Attache of the Romanian Embassy; Mr. Avraam Dimitriou, Honorary Counsel of Belgium; Mrs. Gytha A. Nune, Honorary Vice-Consul of Cyprus; Mrs. Kyriaki Asimakopoulou, Mrs. Evangelia Nyktari and Mrs. Maria Ismyroglou who are volunteer missionaries and many others.
In his address Bishop Panteleimon marked the importance of the Patriarch's presence in Ghana, a region that the Patriarch served for nine years as Archbishop and also referred to the new spirit of renaissance in the Patriarchate since H.B. Petros had become the Head of the Church of Alexandria. Finally he presented gifts to the Patriarch and his entourage.
His Beatitude expressed his joy at the progress of the Orthodox Church in Ghana, thanked everybody that contributed to his successful pastoral visit and to the missionary work. He also said the following: 'We have had the blessing of living in the beautiful and hospitable land of Ghana for seven days. We met the local people. We learned their traditions, we felt the rhythm of their hearts and the greatness of their love. We are going back home with great satisfaction and beautiful memories. We express our deepest gratitude to our beloved brother Bishop Panteleimon, to the clergy and laity and to all of you for your kind dedication to your Patriarch and the Orthodox Church. We reassure you once again that our contact will continue through prayer. We will always be with you in spirit. We will grow together in spiritual progress'. The Patriarch presented to H.G. Panteleimon a silver tray bearing the emblem of the Patriarchate.
On Wednesday evening the Patriarch met with the local clergy. He discussed with them various issues concerning the presence and the work of the Orthodox Church in Ghana and gave them appropriate directions and advice. He also presented them financial assistance to support the needs of their families.
After the meeting His Beatitude departed for the international airport of Accra. His flight was scheduled for the late Wednesday evening, October 2nd, 2002. However, due to the bad weather conditions in the region the flight was delayed for 15 hours. Finally the Patriarch managed to depart from Accra at noon on Thursday, October 3rd, 2002. He arrived in Cairo late that evening.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA MEETS WITH THE PATRIARCH OF THE COPTIC CHURCH
Due to the long flight delay from Ghana, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa arrived in Cairo in the late evening of Thursday, October 3rd, 2002 instead of Wednesday, October 2nd.
The evening of Friday, October 3rd, 2002, the Patriarch met with H.H. Shenounda, Patriarch of the Coptic Church and discussed with him various issues concerning the two Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches. Patriarch Shenounda also inform Patriarch Petros about the state of the relations between the Coptic and the Ethiopian Church.
Later on the two Patriarchs as Presidents of the Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches attended a meeting with Dr. Salim Sayouni, President of the Protestant and Evangelical faithful and H.E. Kyrillos Bustros, President of the Catholic faithful and the Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches. Other attendees were: H.E. Bishoy, Metr. of Damiette and Bishop Johannes of the Coptic Church; H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis and the Very Revd. George El Samaa and Mr. Guirgis Saleh, Associate General Secretary of the Council.
The following issues were discussed: the date and the agenda of the next meeting of the Executive Committee of the Council; the date of the next General Assembly; the meeting of the Heads of the Churches in the Middle East; and the concerns of the Catholic faithful about the function of the Council.
Finally Patriarch Petros referred to the delay of the recognition from the Israeli authorities of H.B. Irineos, as the new Patriarch of Jerusalem and expressed his anxiety about this delay. For that reason he suggested that the Middle East Council of Churches address a complaint to the Israeli Civil Authorities, something that was approved unanimously by the rest of the Presidents and the General Secretary.
That evening His Beatitude returned back to Alexandria.
OFFICIAL VISIT OF H.B.
IGNATIUS IV, PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH AND ALL THE EAST AT THE GREEK ORTHODOX
PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA