NEW YEAR AT THE PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA
The cutting of the traditional New Year Cake (Vasilopitta) was done on the night of Friday 31st December 2004 by His Beatitude Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa in the Great Hall of the Patriarchal Monastery of St Savvas.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria bade farewell to 2004 with many works still being developed and with the renovations being continued as the Patriarch had promised.
On the last day of the year, groups of scholars from the schools of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria sang New Year Carols for His Beatitude.
On the afternoon of the same day, he received the clergy and lay staff who work in the offices of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, as well as the Greek and Arab-spekaing priests of the city who had come to wish him a happy New Year.
His Beatitude then gave out the customary gifts to the priests, the staff of the Patriarchate and to all those who assist him in his work.
After the service of Great Festal Vespers, accompanied by the clergy of the Patriarchate, the local residents and the pilgrims, His Beatitude went to the Great Hall of the Monastery of St Savvas where he cut the Vasilopitta.
Present at the ceremony were the representative of the Greek Consulate in Alexandria Mr Dimitris Diamantis, the Vice Chairman of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria Mr Dimitris Vafiades, the President of the Arab-speaking Orthodox Community Mr Gabriel Nahas and many residents.
Following the relevant service and the cutting of the Vasilopitta, His Beatitude referred to the ordination of new Metropolitans for the Metropolies which were vacant following the accident of 11th September 2004. Special emotions were felt when His Beatitude mentioned his predecessor Petros VII of Blessed Memory, as well as his separate mention of every member of the Preisthood from his entourage who was tragically killed after the fall of the helicopter, as well as of the lay members accompanying the late Patriarch and the crew of the helicopter. In continuation he mentioned the importance and the significant and multifaceted work of the Patriarchate of Alexandria throughout the African continent. He mentioned the missions throughout Africa, referring to many shocking personal events. Finally, through the Person of the representative of the Greek Consulate he thanked the Motherland of Greece for supporting the work of the Patriarchatge, through the Hellenic Community representative he thanked the residents and through Mr Nahas the Arab-speaking Orthodox Christians, the youth who attended the ceremony and gave them the necessary advice for the new year, and then thanked all for the love with which they have surrounded him since he first arrived in Alexandria.
The speech was translated into Arabic by Presvytera Zihran, wife of Father Petros Mazgar Parish Priest of the Church of St Anthony.
All present then sang the New Year carols and His Beatitude gave out pieces of the Vasilopitta.
On the first day of the New Year the Patriarchate conducted the Divine Liturgy accompanied by the clergy of the Patriarchate and of the city.
Following the Divine Liturgy a Doxology for the New Year was sung, led by His Beatitude. Mr Dimitris Diamantis represented the Greek Consulate, and Mr Dimitris Vafiades, the Vice President, represented the Hellenic Community of Alexandria. Following the Doxology, His Beatitude wished health and strength for all and that the peace of God would reign in Egypt, Greece and the whole world.
His Beatitude then received the good wishes of all in the Great Hall of the Monastery.
The Primate of the Alexandrian Throne accompanied by the clergy of the Throne, then went to the Hellenic Community of Alexandria for the cutting of the Vasilopitta.
The ceremony took place in the lounge of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria and present were the members of the Hellenic Community and the staff of the Greek Consulate. After the customary prayers and His Beatitude's wishes for the New Year, the Vasilopitta was cut and the Patriarchate gave out the pieces to all.
His Beatitude then visited the Old Age Home of the Hellenic Community and wished a good year for the elderly people. For the first time, the Patriarch asked that all the elderly people and the staff of the institution sit with him at the festal table.
At noon on the next day, January 2nd 2005, at the Patriarchal Lunch, His Beatitude cut the Vasilopitta for the clergy and the staff of the Patriarchate.
HOLY EPIPHANY AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On 6th January 2005, Holy Epiphany was celebrated with exceptional splendour and particular grandeur at the historic Throne of St Mark at the most ancient patriarchate of Alexandria and at the Holy Patriarchal Church of St Savvas the Sanctified during which the Divine Liturgy was conducted by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.
Accompanied by His Eminence the Metropolitan of Pilousion and the clergy of the Patriarchate, after the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude performed the Greater Blessing of Waters. The Patriarch then blessed the faithful and wished that the blessed waters would grant them illumination so that Christ's peace would reign in their hearts.
Present at the Divine Liturgy and at the Greater Blessing of Waters were the representatives of the Greek Consulate and the Hellenic Community, the Chairmen and Members of Hellenic Sociaties and Associations of Alexandria, many local residents and pilgrims from Greece.
Following the Greater Blessing of Waters, His Beatitude received the first courtesy visit of the Governor of the city of Alexandria General Mohamed Mahgoub (Senior Local Official) in the Great Hall of the Monastery of St Savvas. Mr Mahgoub was accompanied by several important officials of the city, among whom were the Assistant Commissioner, the Security Commissioner, the General Dean of the University of Alexandria and others.
In his address to the Governor His Beatitude referred, amongst other things, to the peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Egypt and asked Mr Mahgoub to pass on his grateful thanks for the assistance and protection given by the Egyptian Government to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, to the President of the Egyptian Government, Mr Hosny Moubarak. His Beatitude said that wherever he goes, he mentions this love and co-operation which exists between the Patriarchate, the Governor and the Egyptian people and mentioned also that during his recent visit to Greece and especially to Crete he invited the Greeks to regularly visit Alexandria. The Patriarch's words to the Governor that "Alexander the Great built Alexandria and you made it beautiful" were especially well-received and brought a great round of applause. That one sentence by the Primate of the Alexandrian Throne gave the dimensions of the radical changes made in Alexandria during Mr Mahgoub's tenure. His Beatitude finally told Mr Mahgoub, "You are with us, you protect us and your help us; whatever we can do to be of use to you and to assist you, we will gratefully do so".
Mr Mahgoub thanked His Beatitude for the reception and the hopsitality, referred to the relations between Hellenes and Egyptians and to the lengthy friendship which binds them, and said: "We are friends, we have invited all Egyptians and Greeks to return to Alexandria and we made a start by bringing back Alexander the Great", meaning the statue donated by Greece and which through his own efforts was placed in the central square of Alexandria. He also referred to the honour given by Greece to Mrs Susana Moubarak. He also mentioned the Olympic Games saying: " We were certain that, as the Games were being held in Greece we would get a medal, and in the end we got five". He thanked His Beatitude for his co-operation and wished him many years. A discussion between them on various issues followed. The interpretation between the Alexandrian Primate and the Governor was done by Mr Michael Aslanides.
Afterwards, accompanied by the clergy of the Patriarchate and of the city, His Beatitude went to the Hellenic Naval Club where he performed the service of the Blessing of the Waters for the first time. Hoards of people had crowded onto the balcony of the Club and, totally moved, watched the whole ceremony which took place in a specially transformed area on the beach of the Hellenic Naval Club of Alexandria on a dais bearing palm branches and hundreds of Greek flags. The waters of the Mediterranean were thus blessed for the first time by the Patriarch of Alexandria, who before dipping the Cross into the waters, freed four white does, the number of the Evangelists, and a symbol of peace. To Mario Makris who dived off a blue and white sail-boat and caught the Cross, His Beatitude gave a gold ornamental Cross, saying: "You are the first Alexandrian to dive for the Cross on the day of Epiphany in Alexandria".
Following this, all present went to the Naval Club building where the President, Mr Edmond Kasimatis, thanked His Beatitude for the moving moments he shared with them through the ceremony. He mentioned Epiphany day and Greek traditions. He then gave Mario Makris a piece of gold jewellery depicting the All Holy Virgin as a reminder of the day.
His Beatitude then thanked all for their presence and for the assistance they give the Patriarchate; he thanked Mr Kasimatis who accepted the proposal and assisted in its realization and then referred to the missions and the struggles faced by the missionaries. He wished all a good enlightenment.
Present at all the ceremonies were the representative of the Greek Consulate, Mr George Karakitsos, the representative of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria Mr John Mallis the second Deputy Chairman, the President of the Arab-speaking Orthodox Community Mr Gabriel Nahas, all the Chairmen of the Hellenic Societies and Associations, many local residents, as well as pilgrims and travellers from Greece.
The Naval Club then hosted a lunch for the Patriarch and his entourage. During the lunch His Beatitude gave the Cross which for the first time had blessed the waters of the Mediterranean from Egypt to the Hellenic Naval Club of Alexandria.
VISIT OF THE MELCHITE PATRIARCH
The Patriarchate of Alexandria honoured the St John the Forerunner on 07 January 2005, with a Divine Liturgy attended by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.
After the Divine Liturgy His Beatitude wished all many years and prayed that St John the Forerunner of Christ would always be with them.
At noon, His Beatitude received the visit of Patriarch Gregorios of the Melchites who is undertaking his annual pastoral visit to Egypt.
Following his welcome by the clergy of the Patriarchate and after venerating at the Holy Church of St Savvas the Melchite Patriarch and his entourage went to the Patriarchal office where they were welcomed by the Alexandrian Primate. The two Patriarchs mutually informed each other regarding the work of their respective Churches and had significant talks regarding the dialogue between the Churches of the Middle East. They also had significant discussions regarding the differences between the two Churches.
The Primate of the Alexandrian Throne then hosted an official lunch in the Patriarchal Refectory for the Melchite Patriarch and his entourage which was made up of Metropolitan of Joseph of Egypt who is of Greek descent, and of the Melchite clergy who serve in Alexandria. At lunch the discussion regarding the differences between the two Churches continued, in an atmosphere of love and mutual respect.
On his departure from the Patriarchal Monastery of St Savva the Melchite Patriarch thanked His Beatitude for the welcome.
Earlier on Archimandrite Markos Theodosi, the interpreter for His Beatitude, conveyed the wishes of the Alexandrian Primate to the representative of the Coptic Patriarch, Shenouda, because the Copts celebrate Christmas on this day.
On Sunday 9th January 2005 His Beatitude Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa went to Port Said where he conducted the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration.
Following the Diving Liturgy enthroned the new Metropolitan of Pilousion, His Eminence Panteleimon from Ghana.
During his address to the flock od the Holy Metropolis of Pilousion mentioned the 20-year missionary effort of their new Metropolitan in countries of Africa and wished His Eminence strength in his new service.
His Eminence then thanked the Alexandrian Primate for his love and assured him that he will do his best for the new Metropolis entrusted to him.
Present at the Divine Liturgy and the enthronement ceremony were, the Chairmen of the Hellenic and Arab Orthodox Communities of the Metropolis of Pilousion, local authorities and many pilgrims from Cairo, Alexandria and Damieta.
At noon, the Hellenic Community of Port Said hosted a lunch in a well-known restaurant in the city in honour of the Patriarch.
THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA IN KENYA
On the 14th January 2005, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa arrived in Kenya from Alexandria, on his way to Cameroon where he will enthrone the new Metropolitan.
At "KENYATA" Airport His Beatitude was welcomed by the Metropolitan of Kenya His Eminence Makarios and the Metropolitan of Irenoupolis His Eminence Dimitrios, the Charge d' Affaires of the Embassies of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, African and other clergy.
On 15th January, the Patriarch, accompanied by His Eminence Makarios of Kenya, visited the Missionary centre in Rirouta on the outskirts of Nairobi, where His Beatitude was enthusiastically received at the Chapel of the Patriarchal School "Makarios III", by the seminarians, the catechists, the lectureres and the colleagues of the missionaries of the Nairobi and Kiambou areas. At the Chapel, the seminarians sang the Doxology and the Patriarch's feme in Greek and the "It is truly meet..." in Swahili.
His Eminence warmly welcomed the Alexandrian Primate to the School, stressing the significance of this visit to the School by the Patriarch four months after his election to the Throne of St Mark, and then referred to the programme of the School and asked for the prayers, assistance and support for the Patriarch.
His Beatitude then thanked the Metropolitan of Kenya, referred to the history of the Patriarchate of Alexandria as well as to his own personal course up until his election to the Throne of St Mark, indicated to the seminarians to pray and to study. He then told them that he is their father, their friend, their brother. Afterwards, while the choir sand Church hymns the seminarians, one by one, received the Patriarch's blessing.
His Beatitude was then taken on a conducted tour of the buildings of the Patriarchal School, the Teaching College, the Computer and Sewing Schools and the Nursery School. His Beatitude then inspected the extensions of the Patriarchal and other Schools. In every instance His Beatitude spoke words of paternal love. At the schools, the young pupils danced and sang traditional African dances and songs.
The Kenyan Metropolitan later hosted a reception in honour of His Beatitude in the residence of the Holy Metropolis.
That night, His Beatitude, accompanied by Archimandrite Markos Theodosi departed for Yiaounde, the capital of Cameroon, in order to perform the enthronement of the new Metropolitan.
THE PATRIARCH IN DOUALA - CAMEROON
In the early hours of Sunday 16th January 2005, His Beatitude Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, accompanied by Metropolitan Gregorios of Cameroon and the clergy of the Holy Metropolis departed by car for the city of Douala.
At the entrance to the city His Beatitude was welcomed by the Chairman of the Hellenic Community of Douala r Christos Karavidas, the members of the Executive Commitee and many Greeks. Following an order from the Governor of Douala a special guard led the car cavalcade to the Holy Church of Ss Constantine and Helen in the grounds of the Hellenic Community where crowds of Orthodox faithful welcomed the Alexandrian Primate.
After a short while the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy began and His Beatitude was accompanied by the Metropolitan of Cameroon and the clergy of the Holy Metropolis. After the Divine Liturgy His Beatitude addressed words of greeting to the members of the Hellenic Community and to the Cameroonian Orthodox faithful who were all deeply moved and among other things told them that he regards them all as his family and that was the reason he was not reading the text of his speech.
The Parish Priest of the Church, Fr Panayiotis Soupourtzis thanked His Beatitude for the honour of his visit and stressed the self-sacrifice of the Alexandrian Primate during his missionary service in Cameroon. The speeches were also translated into French in order to be understood by the multiethnic flock who were present at the Divine Liturgy.
After the Divine Liturgy and in the grounds of the Church, the Cameroonian Orthodox Christians danced and sang traditional African songs.
At noon, the Hellenic Community of Douala hosted a lunch in honour of His Beatitude and that evening the Alexandrian Primate attended a dinner hosted in his honour by the Honorary Consul of Greece Mr M Cambanis.
THE PATRIARCH IN THE CAMEROON
His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa has been in the Cameroon since Saturday 15th January 2005, undertaking his first pastoral visit.
His Beatitude arrived at the "NSIMALEN" international airport in Yiaounde on Saturday night accompanied by his interpreter Archimandrite Markos Theodosi.
The Alexandrian Primate was met at the airport by His Eminence Gregorios Metropolitan of Cameroon together with clergy from the Metropolis, the Ambassador of Egypt in the Cameroon Mr Abdeahdinh Mohamed, the Charge d' Affaires of Greece Mrs Smaragda Yianniou together with Diplomatic and Administrative staff of the Greek Embassy, the Director of Protocol of the Republic pf Cameroon Mr Ebana, the Honorary Consul of Cyprus Mr Konstantinos Antoniades, the Chairman of the Hellenic Community of Yiaounde Mr Kleopas Loizides, the Chairman of the Cameroonian Orthodox Christians Mr Mess, the Great Lord of the Churches of the Patriarchate of Alexandria Mr George Kyriakides and many faithful who gave the Alexandrian Primate a warm welcome.
The President of the Republic of the Cameroon Mr Paoul Biya, immediately onbeing notified of the intended visit to the Cameroon by the Alexandrian Patriarch, ordered that he be given the honours of a Head of State, because his elevation to the Patriarchal Throne of St Mark, honours the Cameroon whose Prelate he was for six years, developing in that time significant and multifaceted missionary and social activities, significantly helping suffering Cameroonians. His Excellency the President placed state vehicles for use by His Beatitude as his personal guest as well as a special guard, in order that His Beatitude can move about quickly and safely during his stay in the Cameroon. Also, all expenses of the stay of the Patriarch and his entourage in Cameroon have been undertaken by the Republic of the Cameroon. His Beatitude thanked the President of the Republic of the Cameroon through the Director of Protocol for the honour shown to him.
His Beatitude and his entourage then left the airport for the hotel where they were to be staying.
CONTINUATION OF THE PATRIARCH'S PASTORAL VISIT TO CAMEROON
On Thursday 20th January 2005, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, attended a dinner hosted in his honour by the Chairman of Cameroonian Orthodox Christians, Mr Messy, at his home.
His Beatitude thanked everyone for the honour showed to him by all Cameroonians and stressed the necessity for unity among Orthodox Christians in order that Orthodox witness be a witness for Christ.
The next day, Friday 21st January 2005, the Alexandrian Primate visited the Parish of Ss Constantine and Helen in the Metet area of Yaounde where he was welcomed by the clergy of the Metropolis and the faithful people of the parish.
In the presence of the local community and military officials a doxology was held, at the end of which, in his address, His Beatitude greeted the faithful and mentioned the great efforts made for the building of this church, as well as for the salvific action of Ss Constantine and Helen through which His Beatitude was saved following a car accident. He then placed the icon of the saints on the holy icon stand of the church.
Afterwards, His Beatitude visited the newly built Parish Centre and Clinic where he blessed the common agape meal of the parish.
On the afternoon of the same day, His Beatitude met with the benevolent society of Orthodox Ladies in a hall at the Hilton Hotel. The Primate of the Alexandrian Throne spoke of the necessity for efficiently using the ladies in philanthropic work, and attentively listened to their problems. He later hosted a reception in honour of these ladies.
That night, His Beatitude and his entourage attended a show by the local choir and then attended a dinner hosted in his honour by the Grand Lord of the Churches, Mr George Kyriakides.
On Saturday 22nd January 2005 the Patriarch met with the Orthodox Youth of Cameroon at a function organised by the youth in his honour at the Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. The young people warmly welcomed His Beatitude. The church choir sang hymns and impromptu songs in honour of the Primate of the Alexandrian Throne. Greatly moved, His Beatitude addressed and greeted all those present. A reception followed in the grounds of the building.
That night, His Beatitude and his entourage attended a dinner hosted in his honour at the home of Commander Rene Mecca, a spiritual child of His Beatitude.
ENTHRONEMENT OF THE NEW METROPOLITAN OF CAMEROON
On Sunday 23rd January 2005, His Beatitude officiated at, and then conducted, the Divine Liturgy accompanied by His Eminence Gregory Metropolitan of Cameroon, and the clergy of the Holy Metropolis at the Holy Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Yaounde. At the end of the Divine Liturgy he enthroned the new Metropolitan of Cameroon, His Eminence Gregory. His Beatitude addressed the new Metropolitan and wished him strength in his new service. The new Metropolitan was addressed by Mr Kleopas Loizides on behalf of the Hellenic Community of Yaounde. In his enthronement address the new Metropolitan thanked His Beatitude and all those who had played a defining role in his service as a priest and laid out the framework within which he would work during his service in the missionary Archdiocese of Cameroon.
The entire ceremony of the enthronement was broadcast by the state television. Present both at the ceremony of the enthronement and at the reception which followed in the grounds of the Hellenic Community and the Archbishopric, were the Ambassador of Greece Mr Apostolos Pavlos Haralambous, the Ambassador of Egypt Mr Abdelhamid Suleiman, Commander in Chief Mr Rene Meca, the Roman Catholic Nuncio Mgr Antonio Elisser, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Cameroon Mr Esso representing his Excellency the President of the Republic Mr Paul Bica, diplomats from the countries of the European Union, the Ambassador of the Central African Republic which belongs to the Archdiocese of Cameroon, as well as the Ambassadors of Chad and Gabon, both of which countries also fall under the jurisdiction of the Holy Archdiocese of Cameroon, the Honorary Consul of Cyprus Mr Konstantinos Antoniades, the Honorary Consul of Greece in Chad Mr I Poulopoulos, the Chairman of the Hellenic Community of Douala Mr Christos Karavidas, many Hellenes and crowds of Orthodox Cameroonians.
That night His Excellency the Ambassador of Greece Mr Apostolos Pavlos Haralambous hosted a dinner in honour of His Beatitude at the Hilton Hotel.
CONTINUATION OF THE PATRIARCH'S PASTORAL VISIT TO CAMEROON
The next day, Monday 24th January 2005, in the presence of His Beatitude, a meeting of the Priests was held in the Holy Church of the Annunciation. His Beatitude, addressing the clergy, spoke of the responsibility of priestly service and discussed his plans for the creation of a Higher Theological School in Alexandria. A discussion followed during which the various problems of the Priests were aired.
At noon, His Beatitude attended a lunch which was hosted in his honour by the Priests of the Archdiocese of Cameroon. That evening he attended a short reception hosted in his honour by the Honorary Consul of Cyprus Mr Konstantinos Antoniades.
On Tuesday 25th January 2005, His Beatitude attended the Divine Liturgy which was conducted by the new Metropolitan, Gregory of Cameroon, who was celebrating his name day that day, at the Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. At the end of the service His Beatitude addressed the Metropolitan and wished him strength, expressing his trust in the new hierarch for the continued progress of the Holy Archdiocese.