Many Years and a Thank You to Ecumenical Patriarch Barthlomew

568 years have passed since the tragic cry was heard: “Εάλω η Πόλη! The City has fallen! The City has been captured!”

568 years have passed and yet we do not forget it. None of the succeeding generations will forget it either.

Constantinople is one of the reference points of Hellenism.

We grew up with the history of the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Her truths and myths.

We were not interested in looking at the errors we made that led to its fall. Although this may have taught us something.

The Great Idea – ‘Megali Idea’ – the dream of gathering all Hellenes into one state that inspired for so long, which was the driving force of Greek thinking for decades, is buried in the ruins of the Asia Minor Catastrophe.

But Constantinople, the Aghia Sophia, the martyred Patriarch Gregory V, have also been deeply engraved in our overall consciousness.

The City is not forgotten and this is due in large part to the fact that there is still a bright star in the City. The seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which guides the spiritual course of Hellenes Abroad and embraces with its affection and love the Greeks of Greece.

There were only a few Greeks – Romioi they called themselves – left in the city. And not all the guardians of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were free of human frailties.

But the monuments, the institutions, the sacred churches still exist and even with their silence they testify loudly to the rest of their history.

The existence of a once-numerous Hellenism – after declining to around 50,000 in 1453, the number of Greeks reached 250,000 in the early 20th century – with many triumphs and global fame – as unbelievable as it seems – has been decimated over the past century.

Many of the current community’s members have much in common with the ancient guardians of Thermopylae, preserving Hellenism in the City with the help of other Diaspora Hellenes around the world. The main thing is that they are like us. They have problems similar to ours: they are struggling to keep their schools and other institutions and to maintain their buildings.

Their number continues to shrink – there are only about 2000 left. They are held there by the land in which they buried their ancestors, which of course exerts a very strong pull on them.

It is therefore no coincidence that the spiritual ministry of Hellenes Abroad was made the responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Nor is it a coincidence that the Hellenic Diaspora, in its vast majority, embraces the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect and affection.

They would both topple were it not for each other. Together, the Patriarchate and the Diaspora, are fighting for the future.

So in the City, where I visited for a few days, with the numerous minarets piercing the sky and leaving not the slightest doubt of the role the religion they represent and the debts of its faithful, with the endless Turkish flags everywhere, Orthodox Hierarchs and lay people from different parts of the world gathered to celebrate the name day of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to express their pride, and to strengthen their patriotic feeling.

They did not just come because of duty. They are drawn to the leading personality of Patriarch Bartholomew.

They believe that the helm of Orthodoxy is in the hands of a man of extraordinary ability and dedication to the mission he has undertaken for 30 years.

I have been following his work and personality closely for decades.

However, I also had the opportunity to get to know him from another point of view, from the position of Deputy Foreign Minister for Hellenes Abroad, and to better see his invaluable role.

I can therefore express the opinion that although none of us is infallible, it is a particularly happy circumstance that Bartholomew is the Ecumenical Patriarch.

These findings, dear readers, were what led me to make the decision to participate in his name day celebration in person. They made me want to honor him – as if he were a fellow nearby villager (since he comes from Imbros and I from Lemnos – two neighboring islands) and as a fellow expatriate – as the person who bears such a great responsibility towards us all, to wish him health and strength.

But above all: to say a big “thank you!"



The message was strong. It was so strong that our lives are now overshadowed.

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