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Church

National YAL Conference Makes a Dynamic Return after 21 Years

NEW YORK – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s National Young Adult League Conference (YAL) made a dynamic reappearance after an absence of 21 years at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York on July 2. The conference, which was last held in 2001, focuses on faith, fellowship, networking and fun among young members of parishes across the United States. It is estimated that more than 150 young adults participated in this first attempt to revive the conference.

Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou and Consul General of Cyprus in New York Michalis Firillas shared their greetings to open the event. In addition, representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were present, including His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel Geron of Chalcedon and Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymno and Avlopotamos.

This was followed by a series of educational panels covering a wide range of topics from mental well-being to the Eastern Mediterranean, national issues and religious freedom. Speakers included, among others, His Grace Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos, Archdiocese Inter-Orthodox Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Ecumenical Officer and Director Rev. Protopresbyter Nicolas Kazarian, PhD, and The National Herald and MEGA TV channel correspondent in Washington, DC, Petros Kasfikis.

Archbishop Elpidophoros: Everyone is worthy of God’s love

During his address, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America said “we are observing our Centennial as a Church in this blessed Country with these three basic principles: Legacy – the foundation upon which we are built; Renewal – our activities and energies in the present moment; and, perhaps, most important of all: Unity – the ever-expanding embrace of the Church, as an inclusive environment in which all are welcome.

“Let us be realistic. Our Orthodox Tradition of Christianity is a conservative one, especially compared to other Christian communities around us in America. But we are not a coercive one. We are a creative tradition. We are a compassionate tradition. We are a Christ-like tradition.”

Continuing, His Eminence encouraged the youth to use their critical thinking to advance their faith. He noted that “all of you here represent the most educated and sophisticated generation the Church has ever seen. And we cannot ask you to abandon the experience of your learning and training in the things of this world.

“Rather, we invite you to use your competencies in the service of the Faith – not by setting Heaven and Earth in opposition to each other, but rather learning to transform the mundane into the celestial,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said. “And this is done first and foremost by embracing the spiritual reality of God’s love for each and every one of His creations. Every person, no matter who they are, or what they have done – for better or worse – is worthy of God’s love. And if they are worthy of God’s love, they are worthy of our love, too.”

Left to right: The Patriarchal Representatives, Metropolitan Prodromos of Rethymno and Avlopotamos and Metropolitan Emmanuel Geron of Chalcedon, with Archbishop Elpidophoros of America at the YAL Conference on July 2. Photo: GOA/Dimitrios Panagos

His Eminence also recognized YAL Co-Chairs Konstantine Ouranitsis and Harry Koulos, as well as YAL Committee Members Kristina Headrick and Andrea Holland, as Centennial Honorees.

A presentation by the Reverend Protopresbyter Andreas Vithoulkas on the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine followed.

Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou in her remarks said: “Your presence here today is proof of your close relationship with your culture and religion. Proof of your appreciation for the world passed down to you by your ancestors. It is up to you to continue this legacy and bring it to new heights, infusing it with new ideas and initiatives that will make these institutions an integral and vital part of the Greek-American community, as well as the wider society.”

Message of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

In a video message, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referred to the fact that the YAL Conference coincided with the 46th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, noting that “it is a source of inspiration and instruction for our entire Church in the United States of America that your conference is being held in the same venue, at the same time as, but also in conjunction with, the Clergy-Laity Congress and the National Philoptochos Convention.”

His All-Holiness continued: “But how could it be otherwise? How could the ministers and members of your Archdiocese – its Hierarchs and delegates, its clergy and laity, men and women, administrators and pastors – possibly convene without at least remembering, if not consciously recognizing, that the aspiration, promotion and continuation of their sacred work lie in the hands and in the hearts of the young men and women, who are already shaping both the present and future of our Church?”

The Ecumenical Patriarch’s complete remarks are available online: https://bit.ly/3z33wRY.

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