Archbishop Nikitas Speaks to TNH About His Visit to Tarpons Springs

(L-R): Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain, and Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos at Tarpon Springs City Hall, September 30, 2019. (PHOTO: Constantinos Scaros)

BOSTON – His Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain returned recently to his roots in Tarpons Springs, Florida where he was born and raised and experienced a “Godly sign” when on the Epiphany Day of 1974 he retrieved the cross that Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory tossed into the waters. Archbishop Nikitas, in a telephone interview with The National Herald spoke about the situation in England and the infamous Brexit debate.

He told TNH that, “I am the son of the Tarpons village and I still feel that way and this is how the people see me. Everybody welcomed me with love and joy. The St. Nicholas nave was full to capacity and Bishop Sebastianos of Zela came on behalf of the Metropolis of Atlanta, as well as a number of priests.” He added that, “it was for me a great opportunity to see the people again. I walked on the street, I visited the cemetery – not only my parents’ graves, but many graves of our compatriots here.”

Archbishop Nikitas also said, “I was thinking about my years as a small child, then as a young adult, and as clergyman, what could I take with me and apply it in England.”

Archbishop Nikitas of Thyatira and Great Britain during the Service of Great Minima (Announcement) at St. George Patriarchal Cathedral. Photo: Ecumenical Patriarchate-Nikos Manginas

He also said that “I remembered that day of the Feast of the Epiphany that I retrieved the Holy Cross. The first cross that Archbishop Iakovos threw into the water was lost for some time. Then he said, “it is the will of God for me to throw the golden cross and be careful not to lose it.” Then I remember that the moment that Archbishop Iakovos threw the cross it came right onto my hand before I was ready to jump into the waters. For me it was an answer from God to my many supplications and questions. It was the same year when to dove flew and sat on Archbishop Iakovos’ mitre.”

Tarpons Springs’ mayor Chis Alahouzos invited Archbishop Nikitas to speak at City Hall. The Archbishop said, “I know the mayor since I was a young boy, also present was congressman Gus Billirakis who is the son of my first cousin. My parents were his Godparents and we grew up together like brothers.”

Regarding his first experiences as Archbishop in England he said, “I visit the parishes to get to know the faithful. I preach in both languages, in Greek and English because we have fourth and fifth generations. Also, ten percent of the congregation are not Greeks, they are converts, Romanians, and Ukrainians and these people should hear the gospel and the sermon in English.”

He said that “his relations with the Anglican Communion are exceptional. I know the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for many years; we cooperate on issues like human trafficking. He is a very good person and he loves very much the Ecumenical Patriarchate and His All Holiness our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He invites me to all of his events. When they asked me recently how many people you represent, I replied half a million.” He added that “we need to cultivate the existing structures but we will need new Bishops not only for London but for the entirety England, Scotland, and Ireland because we have about three thousand faithful there as well.”

Speaking about the political situation in England he said, “this is a very difficult period not only for England but for all of Europe because at this moment nobody knows what is going to happen with Brexit. Parliament was dissolved and its president resigned, the bother of the Prime Minister resigned and nobody knows where we are going,” though he added, “I don’t believe that Brexit will materialize.”

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