His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the Patriarchal Exhortation at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan on October 29. Photo: TNH/ Zafeiris Haitidis
NEW YORK – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew offered the Patriarchal Exhortation for the meeting of the members of the Archdiocesan Council, the National Philoptochos Society, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation (EPBF) Board of Trustees, and the Order of St. Andrew National Council and Regional Commanders, the first time the organizations held a joint meeting, on October 29 at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan.
The Hon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, National Secretary of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and member of the EPBF Board of Trustees, gave the welcoming remarks and served as the Master of Ceremonies at the event. He noted that the “Thyranixia” at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center on November 2 coincides with another significant date, the 30th anniversary of His All-Holiness’ enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch. Bozonelis also mentioned key figures including Archon Michael Psaros who has said that the Church will be completed by Pascha.
John Catsimatidis, Archdiocesan Council Executive Committee Vice President, in his remarks, highlighted the progress being made at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine and towards the ongoing goal of all those present to strengthen the Church.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros said: “We are honored today to welcome the spiritual father of us all, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to welcome him to this first joint meeting of the Archdiocesan Council, the Philoptochos, the newly established Senators of Orthodoxy and Hellenism, and the Order of St. Andrew Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate… It is particularly appropriate for the Archons to be present with us as their vision for a global endowment of the Mother Church is being celebrated this very evening, just a few days in advance of the 30th anniversary of the longest serving Ecumenical Patriarch in history.”
His Eminence also noted that the Archdiocese of America is preparing for its own anniversary, its centennial next year, “a time for retrospection and a time for vision.” He mentioned the early immigrants from Asia Minor, Greece, and Cyprus who came to the United States and their “first candles were lit in the little St. Nicholas Church on Center Street, the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11, and now just a few days from now His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch will grant us the special blessing of opening the doors of our rebuilt St. Nicholas Shrine and convey his extraordinary patriarchal benediction of this church which is now truly of global significance.”
His All-Holiness was greeted warmly and spoke first in English and then in Greek at the meeting, noting among other things that the date of the “Thyranixia” at St. Nicholas is not only the 30th anniversary of his enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch, but also Archbishop Elpidophoros’ name day.
His All-Holiness’ Patriarchal Exhortation follows:
“Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros,
Most Reverend Metropolitans and Bishops,
Beloved Clergy and Laity,
Members of the Archdiocesan Council,
Philoptochos and Archons of the Ecumenical Throne,
“We are truly and deeply pleased to greet you this morning with our paternal and Patriarchal blessing. It has been twelve years since we were last in this wonderful country, and with the faithful of this preeminent Eparchy of our Ecumenical Patriarchate.
We want all of you to know that the Mother Church of Constantinople holds you close to her bosom as precious children, and as crucial partners in the mission of the Sacred See of Saint Andrew.
“You, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, as an Eparchy of the Great Church of Christ, are preparing to celebrate the Centennial of your establishment. This is a most significant milestone, and an opportunity to take stock of where you have been, where you are now, and the path you have taken to arrive here. On the basis of these considerations, you can envision a future that is filled with the joy and love of the Lord, one that is founded in spiritual growth and maturation.
“This – beloved sons and daughters in Christ – is precisely why the Mother Church is allowing for a renewal of the Charter that She grants to you, to instantiate you as a positive and effective ecclesiastical entity. As you all know by now, the application of the former Charter created a sense of fragmentation in the Archdiocese. This, in turn, led to a weakening of the witness of the unified Archdiocese, and to a diminishment of the universal aspects of the Church that derive from the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Mother Body of the Archdiocese. The whole process, associated with forming the new Charter, is a learning experience that invites all of you to assess your progress as individual communities and as the entire body of the Archdiocese, and to find solutions to the problems of the past.
“The most important aspect of any organization is that it allows for the living organism that is comprised of the real men and women who make up the Church to grow, to mature, and to prosper. Our spiritual responsibility is to provide the necessary conditions for this process, and the Charter is a vital component of it.
“But the Charter is not everything to the life of the Church. Like a skeleton, it supports the organs and sinews of the Body, but it is not the heart that beats, or the lungs that breathe. These are you, the members of the Body that possess the life-force of the Spirit. You are the essential elements that make the Church one in body and soul.
As we reminded you twelve years ago – nearly to the day – of these words of Saint Paul:
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” [I Corinthians 12:26]
It is in the identifying with one another – sharing suffering and failure, as well as joy and success – that you live out the unity of your Archdiocese and of your Parishes, to which we have all been called by our Lord Jesus Christ. When you can see in yourself your bother or sister, and see yourself in them as well, you begin to understand that second greatest commandment:
“You shall love you neighbor as yourself.” [Mark 12:31]
The Mother Church is never absent from your ecclesial life. Through your Archbishop and Metropolitans; through the worldwide ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which reaches beyond parochial concerns of individual communities to global issues of relationship and responsibility, we are connected to you more deeply that you might perceive.
The Hierarchical nature and structure of the Church is not simply a means of governance. It is a mode of inclusion. We not only represent you, but we include you, mystically and liturgically, in our daily activities as Hierarchs. You are part of us and we are part of you. There is identity between us through and in Christ.
Whether your service today is as a member of the Council, or in an advisory capacity, or as Philoptochos, or as an Archon of the Throne, your service is intertwined with every other servant of the Lord. And we, your Bishops, bring you together in the Mystery of the Faith, every time we encircle the Holy Altar in prayer.
You are united by more than accidents of birth and circumstances of life. You are united in the Holy Spirit of God – in the Very Breath of God, that fills your lungs. And by the Very Blood of God, that floods your deepest core – your heart-center – with the love of God, and with the love of one another.
Therefore, Beloved Children in the Lord:
We convey to you our warmest congratulations for this Centennial Observance of the Holy Archdiocese of America, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart for sharing with us the thirtieth anniversary of our service on the Patriarchal Throne of Saint Andrew the First-Called Disciple of the Lord.
Our time together brings us much joy, and so we commend you to the Divine Counsel of God, and His infinite mercy. Amen.”
At the luncheon which followed, Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew served as Master of Ceremonies and gave the welcoming remarks. He quoted from St. Paul’s famous words, “love is patient, love is kind” in referring to His All-Holiness and wished him many years, noting his extraordinary efforts on behalf of the environment and for unity and reconciliation.
Limberakis then introduced National Philoptochos President Arlene Siavelis Kehl who presented a $10,000 gift to His All-Holiness for the Zapyo School in Constantinople and its 125 students. His All-Holiness then presented Siavelis Kehl with a commemorative gift as well.
His All-Holiness then spoke briefly at the conclusion of the luncheon, thanking all those present and offering a blessing for all, noting that “your Mother Church will always stand by you, and defend you and the holy Orthodox faith, the Lord bless you all. Amen.”
All the attendees received an icon of St. Nicholas depicted holding a miniature version of the rebuilt St. Nicholas Church in his saintly hands.
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