THESSALONIKI – Representatives of five nations, Britain, France, Italy, Russia, and Serbia, attended the World War I centennial commemoration of the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Bulgaria in Thessaloniki. The event was held on September 29 at Zeitenlik military cemetery, the final resting place of about 20,000 Allied soldiers. Among those in attendance were His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as the Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris.
A memorial service was presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew at the Church of St. Panteleimon in Ampelokipi, Thessaloniki, on Sunday with the Serbian Patriarch also present.
In his speech, Patriarch Bartholomew referred to World War I and the Peace of the Macedonian Front, to the warriors and warlords, the millions of victims, the dead and the wounded, the exiles across the sea, the hardships, the looting of treasures, the spread of diseases, and all the “usual consequences of the war,” as well as the image of “horror” and the “painful consequences,” which were described by the writer Stratis Myrivilis “with a unique glamor.” Patriarch Bartholomew also spoke about the crosses that dominate the view of the graves at the military cemetery Zeitenlik.
“The Holy Cross is always a symbol of hope, light, resurrection, and life,” said Patriarch Bartholomew. “In the forest of crosses on the graves at Zeitenlik, we face the thirst of eternity… We express this expectation through the symbol of the faith,” he said.
“Our people, our eternally sleeping ones, who died peacefully and violently, and the many believers sent to the great field of Zeitenlik, are not lost, they did not disappear. They find themselves in the hands of the living God, expecting the resurrection of the dead and eternal life.”
In his speech, Patriarch Irinej referred to the victims of the Great War during which the Serbian people paid a very heavy price, 1.2 million victims, and noted the support and solidarity of the Orthodox Greek people with the Orthodox Serbian people then, but also over time, in the war that followed, and up to this day.
“This kindness, the trust of the Greek people, the Serbs will never forget it,” said Patriarch Irinej.
Then Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Patriarch Irinej, accompanied by the representatives of the authorities and the foreign officials, went to Zeitenlik where they placed wreaths at the Serbian, Russian, Italian, British, French and Greek sections of the cemetery.
The event was attended by Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy Socrates Famellos, Deputy Minister of the Interior for Macedonia-Thrace Katerina Notopoulou, Deputy Foreign Minister Markos Bolaris, Deputy Minister of National Defense Maria Kollia-Tsaroucha, Željka Cvijanović- Prime Minister of the Bosnian Serb government of Republika Srpska- one of the two constitutional and legal entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the members of parliament Ioannis Amanatidis, Stavros Kalafatis, Konstantinos Gioulekas, Savvas Anastasiadis, and Ioannis Saridis, Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Regional Vice-Governor Voula Patoulidou, PEDKM president Lazaros Kyrizoglou, mayors, representatives of local organizations, and diplomats of foreign states.
Material from the ANA-MPA was used in this report.