NEW YORK – With enthusiasm, hope, and shouts of “Axios – Worthy!” hundreds of Greek-Americans and Orthodox Christians of all backgrounds and generations welcomed His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros to the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York for his official enthronement as Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America on Saturday, June 22.
The faithful began arriving at the Cathedral at 9 AM for the service that was scheduled for 11 AM. The police had closed off 74th Street between 2nd and 1st avenues and outside of the Cathedral and also in the Cathedral Center large TV screens were installed to accommodate those who couldn’t enter the church because it was filled to capacity. Boys and girls were tossing flower petals on Archbishop Elpidophoros and the Patriarchal representative Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Germany.
Of the most touching moments was when Archbishop Elpidophoros embraced his mother, Eleni Lampriniadis, and kissed her hand. She was in the first row of pews in the congregation along with his bothers and other relatives.
In his enthronement address Archbishop Elpidophoros poured out his heart and mind, sharing his thoughts, his vision, and prospects of his Archbishopric ministry and asking for the cooperation of everyone in his efforts to reorganize the Archdiocese and its institutions.
He said among other things that, “today, I stand before all of you, humbled and grateful, declaring with the Holy Prophet and Psalmist David: Ready is my heart is O God. Ready is my heart! (Psalm 57:7). Indeed, my heart, soul, and mind are ready and eager to embark on this great challenge and charge that our Thrice-Holy God has granted to me by His grace, with my election, at the recommendation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, by the most reverend members of the Holy and Sacred Synod, in order that I might serve you, the beloved faithful of America, as your spiritual father and pastor, the seventh Archbishop of the Holy Archdiocese of America.”
He added that, “I gratefully remember among the “first”, my Archbishop and Patriarch Bartholomew, who bears the foremost burden and first responsibility of unity in the Church. It is he who instructed me in his ‘daily concern for the welfare of all the churches of God’ (2 Corinthians 11:28). It is he who entrusted and encouraged me from the earliest moments of my ministry. It is he who prepared and predisposed me to serve the people of God.”
The Archbishop made reference to the representative of the U.S. government and of President Donald Trump, saying that “I wish to thank our brother in the Orthodox Faith, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alexander Azar, who today affords all of us the great honor of representing the President of United States. Mr. Secretary, your words filled this Cathedral with the eternal truths of the Gospel and the highest ideals of the American dream. I thank you for your commitment to both – to Athens and to Jerusalem, for they are the foundation of our civilization.” He also thanked his predecessor Archbishop Demetrios of America who was present at the enthronement ceremony.”
The Archbishop then presented his top priorities, saying, “first, if we are to be true to our evangelical roots and spiritual traditions, we must be a Church that embraces our young people, that embraces the strangers in our midst, that embraces all members of our community and our country. Our young people face an ever-growing deluge of information and access to knowledge that is unprecedented. The Church – which means all of us – must be ready to meet our youth where they live and where they learn: in our communities, on college campuses, with all of the range and resources of social media at our disposal. We cannot lose any time, and we cannot wait for them to reach out to us. We must offer them a taste of the sacramental life, of the living Body of Christ. We should welcome and embrace them, meeting them – just as the Lord Jesus Himself did with His disciples – on their own terms, in their own hearts, and with their own resources.
Second, our ministry to our youth and our message to our world must be grounded in the development and expansion of our Theological School, the heart of education of clergy and formation of leaders for our Archdiocese but also beyond. I will never forget the extraordinary semester I spent teaching at Holy Cross School of Theology in the spring of 2004. You see, my dear brothers and sisters: the challenges of church management are not merely secular, mundane concerns for the Church. They touch on the very heart of our response to celebrating and communicating the gifts that we have received from God. In a very real sense, we are all deacons! We are all accountable stewards of the resources of the faithful. And if we face our challenges and hurdles humbly and collectively, then I have every confidence that we shall overcome them. If the Lord is our strength and our salvation – our consolation and our illumination – then our brightest days are surely ahead of us.”
Citing a third priority that is especially a concern of those living in the New York Metropolitan Area, he declared “as I stand on this throne – beholding all of you in this splendid cathedral and addressing so many more of you by means of modern communications – I also behold the sacred image and relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Precisely because we believe in miracles; precisely because St. Nicholas works wonders; and precisely because the name Nicholas means “victory of the people,” we are able to echo the words of the Letter to the Romans, which proclaims: “We are able to overcome every challenge through the God who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).
It is this victory and miracle that the Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center represents and symbolizes – not only for our Archdiocese, but for the City of New York, and in fact for the entire American nation. On that bitter day of September 11, 2001, so many lives were lost, so much suffering was caused, and our little Saint Nicholas Church was obliterated in the collapse of the Twin Towers. Yet hatred was ultimately overcome by hope, violence was overcome by forgiveness, and despair was overcome by mercy, compassion, and love.”
In the Patriarchal and Synodical Letter of the Announcement of the Election of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew called him “a man of moral integrity and reverence, a well-educated man of God, well-prepared through training in matters ecclesiastical and temporal, of recognized prudence and ability, and with much experience in ecclesiastical matters and principles from his long, tested and honorable service in the Church to date – was selected and chosen, and was also confirmed as the rightful and canonical Archbishop of the Most Holy Archdiocese of America.”
Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Germany, representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, handed Archbishop the archpastoral staff, a gift of the Patriarch with ecclesiastical and canonical significance. Metropolitan Avgoustinos spoke very highly of Archbishop Elpidophoros whom he knows well since he was a graduate student of Theology in Germany; Elpidophoros considers him his mentor.
Azar said in his remarks, “I bring greetings to the new Archbishop and to all of you from President Trump and Vice President Pence, who have a great appreciation for the work of the Church in America and the value that Americans of all faiths bring to our country. America’s founding fathers drew on the dual traditions of Athens and Jerusalem, reason and faith. The Greeks taught the world how to think, while Christ taught the world how to know. One endeavor cannot flourish without the other. As we read in Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The intertwined traditions of Athens and Jerusalem are quite literally symbolized by the Greek Orthodox Church. They are also well embodied by the great theological and scholarly accomplishments of the new leader whom we welcome today, Archbishop Elpidophoros.”
Turning to the history of the Community, Azar noted that “the Greek Orthodox Church has played a powerfully positive role over the course of American history. Well before the founding of our nation, Greek immigrants had settled in Florida. By the late 1800s, the first permanent Greek Orthodox community was firmly established here in New York City.”