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The Entrance of the Theotokos celebrated in the Holy Cathedral in Pera

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his deepest sorrow for the death of the Serbian Orthodox  Patriarch Irenej, and also his support, love and heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to Their Beatitudes the ailing Archbishops Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece and Anastasios of Albania.  He offered these remarks in his homily after the Divine Liturgy, at which he presided, for the feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos, today, Saturday, November 21, 2020, at the celebrating eponymous Holy Cathedral of the Most Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople in Constantinople. Their Eminences Metropolitans Evangelos of Sardis and Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos concelebrated with His All-Holiness. 

Present at the Divine Liturgy were Their Eminences Metropolitans Apostolos, Geron of Derkon, Meliton of Philadelphia, Chrysostomos of Myra, Stefanos of Kalioupolis and Madytou, and Maximos of Silyvria, His Grace Bishop Benjamin of Tralles, Archons of the Ecumenical Throne, the Honorable Mrs. Georgia Sultanopoulou, Consul General of Greece in Istanbul, and a substantial number of believers, observing all protective measures and distances prescribed to limit the pandemic.

During the Divine Liturgy, His All-Holiness ordained to the rank of the priesthood the deacon Nikodemos Saidam for the Community of Stavrodromi, and then to the rank of deacon the subdeacon Mr. Alexios Torrance, a distinguished theologian and Professor at the University of Notre Dame in the USA.

In his address, before the ordination of the new Elder, the Ecumenical Patriarch gave him paternal advice for his new mission in the Church.

“It is a great blessing for you to become a priest of the Most High, and, in fact, as a member of the holy clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. You must manifest the spirit, the ethos, the traditions of the Great Church, immovable, unstoppable, devoted soul and body to your mission.

“You are the flesh of the flesh of the Omogeneia. You studied in our schools. You have the spiritual gifts of a Constantinopolitan. You learned at the lecterns (analogia) of our churches and served them as an eloquent chanter. You studied Biology here, and you are currently a third-year student at the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It is especially important that as a priest you will also be a theologian. Theological education is a necessary and very important support in the life and work of the clergy. It enriches, deepens, beautifies  and inspires their ministry.

“It was said a few decades ago that the theologian and the priest should hold ‘the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,’ in the sense that, together with theology, it is necessary to inform and be informed, to know the existential needs and visions of modern man, social problems, the spirit of the time and the trends of the culture. Today, of course, everyone holds the enchanting and all-encompassing smartphone, which contains everything, even the text of the Bible, without being sure that the user will look for it amid the abundance of data.

“Our times demand much of the ministers of the Most High. The priests are the co-creators of Christ and the preachers of His Resurrection. The piety and wealth of the philanthropic tradition of Orthodoxy must be preserved in their ministry. ‘The true shepherds,  show love. For love, the Great Shepherd was crucified,’ emphasizes Saint John Klimakos (Ladder, 31). The holy clergy must give the good witness of the Church with self-denial and self-sacrifice, with distinction and humility, with sensitivity for human suffering, with a disposition of brotherly love for everyone.”

Addressing Fr. Nikodemos, His All-Holiness reminded him that in Istanbul, Christians live amongst  people belonging to another religion.

“For us Christians, all people are brothers. Christ became man, was crucified and resurrected for the whole human race. Our Church proclaims love for our neighbor, which is always specific. We do not love ‘man’ in general and vaguely, but persons we meet in our daily lives. As a wise modern professor wrote, the ‘brother’ of us Christians is always ‘the specific person with whom we associate, converse and cooperate, and not the abstract concept of man or humanity’ (G. Mantzaridis, Orthodox spiritual life, ed. Pournara, Thessaloniki 1986, p. 72). This opens to you, dear Father Nicodemus, a very wide field of action and offering.

“Be demanding of yourself. Do not forget the incomparable word of St. John Chrysostom about the priesthood: ‘The office of the priesthood is great and wonderful’ (PG 62, 525-6). You will be accompanied by the good wishes of the blessed Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrius of Praeos, to whom you are related. Imitate his humility, his love, his unwavering trust in the providence and charity of God and his devotion to the Great Church. May his memory be eternal!

“Have as your role model your elder, the Most Holy Metropolitan Germanos of Tranoupolis, through whose hands you received the grace of the first degree of the priesthood, and who surrounds you with additional love and paternal affection. Be taught by his kindness, goodness, simplicity, humility and decency, which, as it is written, is for the priest ‘the true adornment, the encompassing of all the world, enabling him to be omnipresent and always watchful, inspiring all respect as the one who reveals the reverence of all’ (Nektarios of Pentapolis, “On the Priesthood,” Canon II, Athens 2006, p. 59).”

Concluding his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch emphasized that despite the small number of congregations in the churches of Istanbul, the duty of the Holy Clergy is always great and high.

“In the big cities of secularized Western Europe, the congregation is usually small, no more than two or three dozen believers. And we here, for other reasons, have a small number of believers in our churches. But our duty is always great and high: to be servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God for every believer, regardless of quantitative dimensions. ‘For the loss of a soul causes so much damage that it cannot be expressed,’ Chrysorrimon, the ‘prophet of charity,’ reminds us again (PG 60, 40).”

In his response, Fr. Nikodimos with emotion expressed his gratitude to His All-Holiness, who had performed his baptism, as well as to his elder, His Eminence Metropolitan Germanos of Tranoupolis, describing his service in his presence as a “great school.”

Then, in his address before the ordination to the diaconate of the subdeacon Alexios, the Ecumenical Patriarch spoke about the importance of the Church, referring to the doctrine of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which was the subject of the academic research of the candidate cleric.

“The Church is a divine-human communion of the union of God with man and of man with God. The dogma of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon is practiced in the Church, and, as the late rector of the theologians of the twentieth century, the late Fr. George Florovsky, aptly puts it, ‘In the Church the struggle over structures is crowned. In the Church the “mystery” is repeated, or rather continued, i.e. the miracle of the two natures.”

The dogma of Chalcedon is the object of your brilliant academic research, and therefore you are well aware that the divine and human natures are inseparably united, indivisibly and inseparably, in the person of the Word and Son of God the Father. Through the person of the Son, human nature and all creation are brought to God the Father and thus participate in the eternal loving and personal relationship between the Son and the Father. We are saved, therefore, because we become the energy of the Holy Spirit, sons and children of God by grace, according to the Apostle Paul: ‘When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Gal. 4:4-6). The Church is precisely the place in which we become partakers of the mystery of love, and of the unity of the persons of the Trinity of God.

His All-Holiness then referred to the words of Saint Silouan the Athonite and Saint Sophronios of Essex, and addressed the candidate cleric with paternal instruction and advice.

“Stay true, then, to what you have learned from the above Saints and men of the Church and teachers of the Church, that is, to love your neighbor, the other, the whole structure, and may your pastoral ministry be the embodiment of the orthodox culture of the person and a dialogue with modern culture. Keep in mind that without love, no virtue or gift is pleasing to the Lord of the Church, and that love is the criterion that judges both spiritual gifts and virtues.

“Your brilliant studies at the University of Oxford, your research at other world-renowned Universities and Academic Institutions, your teaching at the American University of Notre Dame, the fruit of which is published by the University of Oxford, your study of the anthropology of the Church Fathers, and on the other hand your modest and serious character and your ecclesiastical ethos and wisdom, are the appropriate spiritual background for an always successful ministry and offering in the vineyard of one who is called by the Lord. Cultivate and increase the gifts with which the Holy God endowed you, always for the benefit of the fullness of the Church. Have as your model your protector Saint Alexios, to be forever a man of God, a sacrifice and holocaust of the Lord, a fragrant incense before Him.

“Always inspire and strengthen in your students love and respect for the crucified Great Church of Christ, making them partakers of its spirit and its universal mission. And this mission is nothing but this mystery of Christ’s reconciliation and unity of all, which is the quintessence of the witness of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of Our present Modesty.  In this spirit, our Patriarchate operates and performs its ministry on a pan-Orthodox, pan-Christian, inter-religious and universal level.”

In his response, the candidate cleric expressed his gratitude to His All-Holiness, and assured him of his absolute devotion to the Holy Great Church of Christ.

Then His All-Holiness was addressed by His Eminence Metropolitan Germanos of Tranoupolis, Hierarchical Head of the Community, and the Honorable Mr. George Papaliaris, Chairman of the Ephorate Committee, who referred to the actions of the Community, with the most important being the detailed recording of its property.

In his response, His All-Holiness wished everyone a happy Feast Day, invoking the grace, intercession and protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, whose entry to the Holy of Holies is celebrated today by our Church. He thanked God for this year’s celebration at the Holy Cathedral Church of the Most Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople, despite the difficulties caused by the Pandemic, in which, as he said, “all the former residents of the Community of Stavrodromi, all the members of the Omogeneia who in the good old days gathered on this day at the Panagia of Pera, and whose souls are buried in this beautiful marble Church of our Fathers, prayed with us and were mentally present, and they are all present, and the militant and triumphant Church are united today in this sacred place, at this holy hour and moment, at which the bloodless sacrifice of our Lord was offered. We thank, therefore, the God of our Fathers and the Panagia, who calls us and in the present circumstances lets us stand, gathered in this Church, and pray for a better tomorrow, for the rapid passing of the pandemic, for our unharmed exit from it and for our rapid return to our daily lives.”

He thanked His Eminence the Metropolitan of Tranoupolis for his warm words and good wishes for the entry of His All-Holiness into the 30th year of his Patriarchate. “Always, during these thirty years, you have been on the side of the Patriarch, a faithful associate, full of kindness, not only to the one speaking, but to everyone without exception, and that is what distinguishes you and makes you irreplaceable here in Pera,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch, and he wished Metropolitan Germanos to continue the important work he is doing, in collaboration with the Ephorate Committee, for the Greater Community of Stavrodromi. He also congratulated the Chairman and the members of the Community Board of Trustees for their sound, transparent and honest management of Community affairs and for their unremitting efforts to protect and properly use the property bequeathed to our ancestors in the Community of Stavrodromi.

“You are an example to be imitated; you have all the Patriarchal pleasure and congratulations, and our love and appreciation. What you have said, that you have drawn up and have prepared the list of all Community real estate, is something which, I repeat, should be an example for all Communities to follow. After all, the Mother Church has asked for them, from the responsible Community representatives, and we are waiting for this list of each Community to be submitted to the Mother Church for further information, so that we know what we have, what our fathers bequeathed to us, what we have the duty to preserve and pass on to future generations. It has been rightly said before that everything that belongs to the Community of Stavrodromi belongs to the whole Omogeneia. It is not the property of either the Commissioners, or the Hierarchical Head, or the Ecumenical Patriarch, or any person, but of the entire Omogeneia. And those who manage the Community affairs today certainly have the honor, since they were elected with the vote of the Omogeneia, but they also have a great responsibility on their shoulders, to hand over to their successors the entire, if not increased and utilized, Community property. Unfortunately, in the past there have been cases, there have been undesirable situations, and the people who are involved in these situations will answer to God, to their conscience and to the history of the Omogeneia.”

At the end of his address, His All-Holiness referred to the passing of the Blessed Patriarch of Serbia, an eminent Prelate, as he said, who lost his battle with the coronavirus. The Ecumenical Patriarch explained that the restrictions of the pandemic prevented him from going to Serbia for the funeral service of the Blessed Patriarch Irenej, as he had done for the funeral services of other Prelates, and for this reason he asked His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Dambrosnia, Vicar of the Patriarchal Throne to the Church of Serbia, to represent the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

He then expressed his support and heartfelt good wishes to the Blessed Archbishops Ieronymos of Athens and all of Greece and Anastasios of Albania, both of whom are being treated at the “Evangelismos” Hospital in Athens. “We wish for them that their ordeal is over soon and that they both return to their Hierarchical duties. They are both dear brothers, we have worked together many times in the past, both within the framework of our bilateral relations and within the framework of Pan-Orthodox relations. I was accompanied to Ukraine about twelve years ago, when other Prelates were afraid to come, they were afraid of the threats posed by the Church of Russia; they, Athens and Albania, were by my side, and we worked together in Kiev. Both were valuable collaborators of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Holy and Great Synod of Crete and together we wrote a golden page in the ecclesiastical history of the latter years. May they be well and quickly on their Thrones again.”

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