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Church

Metropolitan of Maronia and Komotini Praises the Hellenic Diaspora

October 14, 2023

BOSTON – His Eminence Panteleimon Metropolitan of Maronia and Komotini, one of the younger hierarchs of the Church of Greece, tends to his frontier Metropolis with pastoral sensitivity and skill. It is also interesting to note that fosters feelings of respect, love, and admiration for the Greek Diaspora.

In an interview with The National Herald, when asked his opinion of the Diaspora in America and what it means to him, he responded as follows: “The Greek diaspora, especially in America, is a source of wealth for us due to the strength and characteristics of the host country. It represents cultural and ecclesiastical wealth. It is ardent Hellenism, without being Hellenism. And consider that it was created out of the needs of a different time, but has evolved into the vanguard of the universal spirit of Orthodoxy and the heart of our Ecumenical Patriarchate in the modern world.”

Regarding how he feels as the shepherd of the historic and borderland Metropolis of Maronia and Komotini, he said, “first of all, I would like to clarify that there is no substantial difference between the ‘Local Churches’. All of them represent the Universal Church of Christ. The difference lies in certain local characteristics [practices and traditions] that enrich the Church as a whole or meet particular local pastoral requirements. The Local Church to which the Mother Church called me is a place of special responsibility, precisely because of its historical origin and its borderland position. I am proud to have connected my whole life with the region of Thrace, which I have served for 27 years – seventeen years as a priest in Xanthi and ten years as a bishop in Komotini.”

Panteleimon, Metropolitan of Maronia and Komotini, presides over the Holy ‘Epitaphios’ Service at the Cathedral of the Annunciation.
(Photo provided by the Metropolis of Komotini)

He also pointed out, “the non-homogeneous composition of our population is usually highlighted as a characteristic of our region. Of course, this is a phenomenon that appears in other areas and Metropolises as well. Multiculturalism is particularly familiar to you in the USA, although with different origins and characteristics. But for us, in Thrace, it is much older, [it is a concept that has been] organically assimilated by society, and diversity and freedom are absolutely respected. They have not built a society of tolerance towards [all] personal choice and individual freedom as legally protected rights, but a society of coexistence and love for different religious and cultural traditions. For us, although the Muslim element is not within the scope of our pastoral responsibility, it is a fraternal element within the scope of coexistence and social fraternity.”

When asked about some of the most urgent issues that concern his province and require immediate attention, His Eminence answered, “my limited experience in this blessed region shows that our homeland must be stronger on the border than in the center. Unfortunately, in our province, unemployment is very high, and it afflicts all people, regardless of their religious faith. We believe that only through serious economic developmental interventions will the existing challenges be addressed, and the privilege of the harmonious coexistence of everyone in our Thrace will be preserved.”

Metropolitan of Maronia and Komotini presides over the Resurrection Service in Komotini.
(Photo provided by the Metropolis of Komotini)

As for how the two nursery schools are financially supported, as well as the ‘Agape Fund’ that provides meals to those in need, he said, “the works of love of the Church are not based on economic studies. Certainly, our economic possibilities are taken into account, but we move forward, because if they are made with good intentions, then God helps. The work for the faithful people is not social provision but essentially a redistribution of goods from the faithful to the entire Church and society. It is the continuation of ‘liturgical action’ towards society, which is expressed as outwardness by every member of our Local Church. In this sense, the Bishop does not ‘perform’ works of love, he merely oversees.”

When we asked His Eminence what young people say to him about the Church and the Orthodox Faith in general, he replied, “perhaps, fortunately, we live in an era where traditional values, which were somewhat self-evident to us, are no longer seen that way. And I say fortunately because the young people are testing everything ‘in the blacksmith’s furnace’. Only what is truly genuine will remain. Authenticity is not questioned by anyone, especially not by the young. The thirst and interest of the youth in the genuine Orthodox Faith as a community of love and coexistence are moving. It is not strained by their doubts but by our compromises.”

The Metropolitan of Komotini is close to the Youth, whom he teaches and advises. (Photo provided by the Metropolis of Komotini)

He added, “more than anything, they are concerned about the future. How they will be able to live with good prospects in their homeland. And when we talk about prospects, we do not mean only economic ones. Prosperity is the basis for social cohesion and for the promotion and further cultivation of the pluralistic cultural model of our Thrace, which, it should be noted, is the model of harmonious coexistence of Christians and Muslims throughout Europe.”

When asked how concerned people today about what the Church is, as opposed to what it is not, he responded, “great temptations arise, not only today but throughout the centuries, from influences on ethical conduct – that is, the customs and the way of life of Christians – by alien principles, doctrines, and faiths. It is the temptation of alienation, which manifests itself in different forms, sometimes in secularization, sometimes in religious formalism, moralism, etc. We must not forget that this is a mistake, a ‘sin’ in its etymological sense [missing the mark], that burdens us, those within the walls, and not those outside. The truth of the Church as a salvific event is found in Christ and becomes known to us through the testimony of the saints. The saints are the ‘experienced ones’, and that is where we should seek the truth.”

Regarding the coexistence of his flock with their Muslim fellow citizens, he said, “coexistence in Thrace has gone through many phases, always depending on political developments and foreign influences on local customs. However, I believe that for many years now, we have transcended the simplistic stage of merely tolerating the ‘other’ and have reached the awareness that we are all different flowers in Thrace’s meadow. This is also an ecclesiastical requirement, openness to the other, with acceptance, without seeking subjugation.”

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