THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA ARRIVED IN GHANA
In the early morning of Wednesday, September 25th, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa departed from Cairo to Ghana for a seven-day pastoral visit.
It is his first pastoral visit to this West African nation as the Head of the Church of Alexandria. His Beatitude is familiar with Ghana as he was the local Archbishop of the area when he was Metropolitan of Accra (1990-1994) and then he later visited when he was Metropolitan of Cameroon (1994-1997).
The members of His Beatitude's entourage were H.E. Irineos, Metropolitan of Pelousion (Port Said); H.G. Georgios, Bishop of Nilopolis; the Very Revd. Emmanouel Kiagias; and the Deacon Nektarios Kontogiorgos.
Later Wednesday morning, the Patriarch arrived at the international airport of Accra where he was welcomed by H.G. Panteleimon, Bishop of Ghana; Mr. Ahmed Moustafa, head of the public relations for the Embassy of Egypt; Mr. Dimitrios Avraam, Honorary Consul of Belgium; and Mr. Stefan Olteanu head of the Commercial department of the Romanian Consulate.
Although it was early in the morning the Patriarch was warmly welcomed at the airport by the local clergy and many faithful who where holding Greek and Ghanese flags and singing the Patriarch's 'feme' in Greek and Twi (a local dialect). Among the local clergy was Fr. Joseph Labi, permanent representative of the Patriarchate at the WCC.
At 10 am the Patriarch attended a press conference. His Beatitude referred to the history of the Church of Alexandria, to the mission work of the Patriarchate and the presence of the Orthodox Church in Ghana for the past 25 years. He also focused on the peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and finally wished peace and prosperity to the blessed people of Ghana.
At 7 pm the Patriarch was officially welcomed at the Holy Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the presence of the local clergy; H.E. George Kocherry, Apostolic Nuncio in Ghana and Togo; representatives of various Christian doctrines and many faithful. The choir of the Cathedral sung the Doxology service. After that H.G. Panteleimon welcomed the Successor of St. Mark as 'the Angel of the Church of Alexandria, who continues the Apostolic succession of the Holy Patriarchs of Alexandria who honour and sanctify the Throne of St. Mark.'
In response, the Patriarch referred to the delay of his pastoral visit to Ghana, the beloved land that he used to visit often when he was the local Archbishop, as follows: 'With deep emotion I see our flock in Ghana embrace me with their honest smile. It is our duty to visit the lands under the spiritual jurisdiction of our Patriarchate to extend the message that Orthodoxy does not have boarders and does not divide nations. I am here with you today to listen to your problems and try to give solutions. Perhaps your Patriarch is not bodily with you however he is with you in spirit and mind. His paternal love and heart are always with you.' The speech of the Patriarch was received with great applause.
After the service His Beatitude distributed icons of St. Mark and chocolates to the children. Later on he visited the new diocesan offices and the residence of Bishop Panteleimon and finally attended a dinner hosted by the local Bishop in the presence of his entourage; the Very Revs. Epifanios Hadjiyagkou and Ioannikios Athanasiades, missionaries from the Holy Diocese of Florina - Greece; and Kyriaki Asimakopoulou; Evaggelia Niktari and Maria Ismyrogloy, lay missionaries from Greece.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA MEETS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF GHANA
On Thursday, September 26th, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa met with H.E. John A. Kufuor, President of Ghana.
The Patriarch informed the President about the mission work of the Church of Alexandria and the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the social needs of the Ghanese people. He also thanked him for the protecting and assisting the local Bishop, the clergy and the Orthodox faithful in Ghana.
President Kufuor thanked the Patriarch for his visit and marked that the State collaborates with the Church because both seek relief and prosperity for human beings. He also expressed his gratitude for the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the social life of the country and reassured the Patriarch that he will always be a supporter and protector of the local Bishop, the clergy and the Orthodox faithful of Ghana.
His Beatitude presented the President with the icon of the Holy Theotokos with the wish that it may bless and protect him, his collaborators and the beloved people of Ghana. He also asked him to always work for peace in the whole world.
The Ministers of Public Relations of the Government, Foreign Affaires, Culture and Religion in addition to other governmental officials were present at the meeting.
That evening the Patriarch met with local clergy and laity, discussed with them various missionary issues and gave the proper instructions and guidance for the benefit of the missionary work in the country. He also met with Mr. Valery Orlov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation; Mr. Charbel Aoun, Ambassador of Lebanon; Mr. Dimitrios Avraam, Honorary Counsel of Belgium; and Mrs. Gytha A. Nuno, Honorary Vice Consul of Cyprus.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA MEETS WITH THE AMBASSADOR OF EGYPT
On Friday morning, September 27th, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa met with H.G. Panteleimon, Bishop of Ghana and some of the local clergy and laity. He discussed various missionary issues with them and gave the appropriate instructions and guidance to aid the progress of missionary work in the country.
At noon the Patriarch visited Mr. Ekram Mohamed Zaafarany, the Ambassador of Egypt to Ghana. Later on the Patriarch attended a luncheon hosted in his honor by Ambassador Zaafarany at the Ambassador's residence. Among the distinguish guests were: Mr. Ahmed Moustafa, Counselor; Mr. Thabit A. Thomas, Secretary; Mr. Hesham Egueza, Manager of Egyptair in Accra; Mr. Atef Halim, Manager of the Arab Contractors Ghana Ltd; Mr. Amr Hamza, Manager of SSB Bank Ltd and other Egyptians residing in Ghana.
The environment was very friendly. The Patriarch thanked the Ambassador for the warm hospitality and the assistance that he received from the Egyptian diplomats since his arrival in Ghana. His Beatitude asked the Ambassador to extend his appreciation and gratitude to H.E. the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the protection that the Orthodox faithful receive from the Egyptian authorities. He also expressed his gratitude for the honor and love that he receives from the Egyptian diplomats whenever he travels abroad. Finally the Patriarch referred once again to the peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt, which he said is something that should be modelled by other nations as well.
Mr. Zaafarany thanked the Patriarch for the honor of accepting his invitation to visit his residence and reassured him that the Egyptian Government will always stand by the Patriarchate. Then the Patriarch presented him with a silver tray bearing the emblem of the Patriarchate and also gave him some chocolate dates.
That evening His Beatitude received a delegation from the Roman Catholic Church. Members of that delegation were: Archbishop George Kocherry, Apostolic Nuncio of Vatican in Ghana and Togo; Msgr. Peter Tuvksom, Archbishop of Cape Coast; Msgr. Dominic Andoh, Archbishop of Accra; Msgr. Francis lodonu, Bishop of Ho who were accompanied by other clergy.
Among the various issues discussed were the strengthening of the relationship between the two Churches, the progress of this dialogue and the presence of the various Christian doctrines in Ghana. On behalf of the delegation, Archbishop Peter Tuvkson, President of the Catholic Bishop's Council in Ghana, welcomed the Head of the Orthodox Church to Ghana and referred to the historical relationship between the Church of Rome and the Church of Alexandria. Finally, he wished that the relationship between the Orthodox Bishop of Ghana and the Catholic Bishops of the country should imitate the close relationship between St. Paul and St. Peter.
In response, His Beatitude referred to the mission work of the Orthodox Church in Ghana highlighting that the Patriarchate of Alexandria never proselytizes but does receive those who come by their own will into its bosom. Finally, he wished that the peace of God would always reign in the beautiful land of Ghana.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA VISITS VARIOUS VILLAGES IN GHANA
On Saturday, September 28th, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa visited various villages in the central region of Ghana.
After a long drive through difficult conditions, the Patriarch arrived in the city of Agona Abodom. At the entrance of the city he was warmly welcomed by the Chief and the Elders, representatives of various doctrines, the local clergy and many Orthodox faithful who were holding Greek and Ghanese flags hailing 'Axios!' His Beatitude, in a procession accompanied by music of the local tradition, arrived at the central square. There he attended a special welcome ceremony which showcased local traditional music and dances. The Chief presented to the Patriarch the guests of honour and the rest of the Chiefs and Elders. On behalf of everyone, the Chief also welcomed the successor of St. Mark by expressing his joy and emotion at having such an auspicious Church Leader in town and also remarked on the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the social life of the city. Finally he presented the Patriarch with gifts according to and symbolic of their local tradition. Then Fr. Jacob Sey, the parish priest, welcomed the Patriarch on behalf of the Orthodox faithful of the area. His Beatitude was also addressed by Mr. Ampomah Gideon Alex, Chairman of the Abodom Local Council of Churches.
The Patriarch referred to the love that Christians should have for Jesus and their neighbors and even for their enemies. He marked that our refugee should always be our Lord, Whom he emphasized is the only one who can help us. The Patriarch presented the Chief with an icon of the Mother of God. The faithful present sung the 'feme' and 'Polychronio' of the Patriarch.
Then His Beatitude proceeded to the newly built Holy Church of St. John the Theologian. There the Patriarch presided over the service of the Great Vespers. His Grace Panteleimon welcomed the Patriarch by marking the great joy of the clergy and laity because they had the Patriarch amongst them.
In his speech, His Beatitude said the following: 'I glorify the name of our Holy God because since I arrived in beautiful Ghana, each day has been a special one for me. I meet new people, new members of our Church. I marvel at their spontaneity, love and devoutness. I know the mentality of my African brothers and sisters very well as I spend most of my ecclesiastical life with the nations and people of my beloved African continent.' Finally he called the faithful to practice the sacramental life of the Orthodox Church in order to receive the blessing and grace of God. The Patriarch presented the icon of St. Athanasios to the church and thanked the family of Mrs. Maria Ismiroglou for building this church. For this reason the parishioners presented to Maria an icon of St. John and traditional clothes of the local custom.
Before his departure, the Patriarch distributed icons of St. Mark and chocolates to the children and visited the residence of Fr. Jacob. The Patriarch then departed for the village of Odina Oguaa. In the main square of the village he was welcomed by the Chief and the Elders, the local clergy and many faithful. He arrived at the Holy Church of the Nativity of Virgin Mary in procession. After the Doxology service, Fr. John Arthur, the parish priest, welcomed the Patriarch on behalf of the Odina Oguaa Orthodox Community.
The Patriarch remarked as follows: 'I see my children of Africa gathered today in this holy church which is their creation. I am deeply touched by your presence and because through your eyes your faith in God and love for your Patriarch is clearly seen. I feel deep paternal love for every single one of you. You are in my heart and soul. Nothing can take you out of me. You are a part of my body. Just as your Diocese is under my Patriarchal jurisdiction, you have my love and concern as you are considered part of the unified body of our Patriarchate. You are my children and I am your father.' Finally he called the faithful to stand next to their Bishop by offering the Bishop assistance and by being collaborators in the Bishop's work. The Patriarch then gave an icon of St. Nektarios to the church as a blessing.
Later the Patriarch attended a special entertainment programme in the courtyard of the church consisting of local songs and dances. During the festivities Chief Nana Abado - Mensham II - welcomed His Beatitude and thanked him for the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the needs of the people who live in the area. The chief also offered a piece of land for a nursery school to be built.
The Patriarch thanked the Chief for the assistance and solidarity that the local authorities give to the Orthodox Church and promised that as soon as the appropriate paper work was completed, the Orthodox Church would build the nursery school. He also reassured the Chief and all present that the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, apart from proclaiming the message of the resurrection of our Lord, is trying to contribute as much as it can to the social needs of African nations.
As a sign of appreciation the Chief presented the Patriarch with gifts from their local tradition. The Patriarch distributed icons and chocolates to the children.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA CONSECRATES THE NEW CATHEDRAL IN ACCRA
On Sunday, September 29th, 2002, His Beatitude Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa consecrated the new Cathedral of the Transfiguration of our Lord in Accra. The Patriarch presided over the 'Orthros - Matins' service, the Consecration and the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy. Concelebrants were: H.E. Irineos, Metropolitan of Pelousion; H.G. Panteleimon, Bishop of Ghana; H.G. George, Bishop of Nilopolis; the Very Revds. Emmanuel Kiagia; Epiphanios Hadjiyagkou; and Ioannikios Athanasiadis with all the local clergy. The Cathedral choir chanted beautifully during the services. All services were broadcast live on the national TV channel.
The services were attended by H.E. Mr. Constantine Giovas, Ambassador of Greece to Nigeria and Ghana; the Ambassadors of Lebanon and Ethiopia; the Consuls of Romania and Bulgaria; a representative from the Egyptian Embassy; Mr. Dimitris Arvaam, Honorary Consul of Belgium; other diplomats; Msgr. Francis Laden, representative of the Roman Catholic Church; representatives of other Christian doctrines; Orthodox faithful of Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Lebanese origin; and many Ghanaian Orthodox who devoutly proceeded to receive Holy Communion and the blessing of their Patriarch. In his welcome speech, the Bishop of Ghana marked the importance of the presence of the Head of the Church of Alexandria in Ghana stating that it is something that gives them courage to continue their missionary work. His Beatitude in his speech referred to the reading of the Gospel by marking that a real Christian is one who loves even his enemies. He also said the following: 'Today's reading from the Gospel of St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist explains the relationship between fellowmen.' The Patriarch continued to say 'we offer this consecrated church to God, which is a generous offer of the Orthodox Mission Center of America, with your love. This Church is going to be an infirmary for souls and a center of healing for every spiritual infirmity. It is with great joy and deep emotion that today we present this church consecrated and sanctified. It is also my duty to express my gratitude not only to my beloved brother in Christ, His Grace Bishop Panteleimon, for his effective contribution to the completion of this church, but to everybody that contributed in any way to the fulfilment of this blessed event. I also extend to you my paternal love and wish that the God of mercy reward your hard works. May His grace also bless and sanctify you. Amen!'.
Bishop Panteleimon presented the Patriarch with a set of Egkolpia and the Patriarch presented the church with the holy icon of St. Athanasios. The Patriarch also gave the Cross of St. Mark to the Very Revd. Epiphanios, who accepted it on behalf of the parishioners of the Cathedral of Florina - Greece. The Patriarch also gave the Cross of Saint Mark to the volunteer missionaries Kyriaki Asimakopoulou, Evangelia Nyktari and Maria Ismiroglou for their great contribution to the missionary work in Africa, especially in Ghana. Finally the Roman Catholic Bishop, as the head of the Roman Catholic delegation, presented the Patriarch with local craft gifts and the Patriarch, in return, presented him an icon of St. Nektarios.
Later on His Beatitude blessed the opening of the Diocesan Headquarters and the infirmaries that are located in the courtyard of the Cathedral.
That evening the Patriarch attended special festivities with traditional dances and songs that were presented by the Orthodox youth in the Cathedral's courtyard. A dinner followed, hosted by the members of the parish, to honor the Patriarch. Fr. Samuel Adjei Kumi and Fr. Joseph Labi welcomed the Head of the Church of Alexandria on behalf of the parishioners. Fr. Joseph referred to the presence of the Orthodox Church in Ghana for the last 25 years and the contribution of the current Patriarch to the successful missionary work in the nation from the time he was Archbishop of Accra and Metropolitan of Cameroon.
His Beatitude thanked everyone for their warm welcome and the beautiful entertainment, he expressed his joy at the current situation of the Orthodox Church in Ghana, thanked everybody that had contributed in any way to the missionary work of the Patriarchate, wished spiritual progress to the Orthodox faithful in Ghana and finally reassured them that they would always be in his heart and prayers. Finally the Greek Ambassador expressed his great joy at noting the strong and fervent faith of the Ghanaian Orthodox, he congratulated them for their efforts and struggles and reassured the Patriarch that he would convey all that he had witnessed in Ghana over the past few days to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Greece.
Finally the parishioners presented their Patriarch with local art and craft gifts. His Beatitude distributed icons of St. Mark and chocolates to the children.