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His Eminence Metropolitan Symeon of Fthiotida arrives at the Monastery of Saint Vissarion. (Photo provided by the Metropolis of Fthiotida)
BOSTON – A few months ago, the Ecumenical Patriarchate canonized Saint Vissarion who had been viewed as a Saint by the People of Fthiotida and Greece in general as a holy man. The Metropolis of Fthiotida has the special blessing and honor to have Metropolitan Symeon, one of the youngest and most learned hierarchs of the Church of Greece.
In an interview with The National Herald, Metropolitan Symeon said that “I feel particularly blessed by God, because such a gift was bestowed on me from the beginning of my pastoral care in the Holy Metropolis of Fthiotida and especially benefited from his All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Synodal Hierarchs of the Great Church of Christ, as well as from his Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and the members of the Standing Holy Synod, who supported and justified our effort.”
He also said that “Saint Vissarion had been proclaimed Saint from our people, even before his dormition. During his funeral, in 1991, my predecessor the great Metropolitan Damaskinos of blessed memory with deep emotion stated that ‘today, my Christians, we attend the funeral of a Saint.’ He never ceased believing him to be the saint of our time and when in 2006 his fully preserved relics were found, this faith about holiness was documented in an irrefutably distinct way and became a universal belief not only for the residents of Fthiotida but for all the Greek people. Our people were expecting this cheerful announcement of the canonization. Obvious proof was the fact that hundreds of blessed Christians accompanied me to Constantinople on August 31, 2022 during the signing ceremony of the Patriarchal and Synodal Act.”
Speaking about the life of Saint Vissarion, he said: “He was born in Petalidi of Messinia in 1905, a child of a poor, and with many other children, family. He entered monastic life in the Monastery of Holy Mary of Dimiova and in the years 1931 and 1933 respectively, he was ordained deacon and priest in the Holy Metropolis of Messinia. After that, from 1935 to 1955 he ministered in the Holy Metropolis of Thessaliotidos and Fanariofarsalon and from 1955 to 1991 in the Holy Agathonos Monastery of the Holy Metropolis of Fthiotida. Wherever he was during his service, in Messinia, Thessaliotidos and Fthiotida, he was “aiding and healing.” Immensely ascetic, a person of continuous prayer and fasting, strict and hard with himself but lenient with everyone else, he was touring constantly, consumed by the sacrament of penance. He supported the unable people giving mercy, consolation and hope. He was the father for the poor and disregarded people of this world, the Saint of forbearance and forgiveness. He was laid to rest with holiness in 1991 and in 2006, during the execution of necessary works in the Monastery, his fully preserved relics were revealed, even the Gospel he had in his hands, his priestly vestments, his shoes, everything. They were unfading, fragrant and purified. His relics are a sign of blessing and a lot of miraculous points document his holiness.”
To the question of what the people, and especially the young, say to him and what are some questions that they ask, he said: “The people and especially the younger ones inquire and search inside themselves. They feel agitated and confused, overwhelmed from their numerous problems, but also tired from the accumulation of information and news, much of which is fake, unreal and contradictory. The young people try to find the truth into their relationships and meaning in their lives and search for people who can materialize this truth and this meaning. Their fundamental questions are deeply connected with their identity: Who am I? What do I want? Where am I going? How am I getting there?”
Metropolitan Symeon added that, “our young people especially have a sharp sense of authenticity. They react to the rules and the image. They can find images and ‘show off’ beyond the Church. They are full of appearances. In the Church, they want to see authenticity and simplicity. This is why they sometimes raise doubts and have reservations. This is a healthy sign. We do not want people with mindless submission and blind obedience. We want cordial acceptance and the freedom to choose the way of life that Christ brings.”
Regarding the war of Russia against Ukraine he said: “A dire image in the Orthodox Christians’ life. A brother murders a brother. If every war is civil and fratricidal, as Saint Basil the Great teaches, let alone when an Orthodox attacks another Orthodox. The Russian war against Ukraine is hell on Earth. Demons’ foul play. The Devil celebrates and Christ is crucified again by ‘so-called’ Christians.”
Asked about the Greek-American community, he said: “The Omogeneia of America is our family. We feel like the Greek people of America are our kin.”
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