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From the enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Philotheos of Thessaloniki. He is accompanied by the Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, Metropolitan Emannuel Geron of Chalcedon. (Photo by Raphael Georgiadis / EUROKINISSI)
BOSTON – Metropolitan Philotheos of Thessaloniki, who was enthroned on Saturday, November 25, 2023, at the historic church of Aghia Sophia in Thessaloniki, gave his first archpastoral interview to The National Herald. He talked about emotions that overwhelm him, about the youth, and the Church, about same-sex marriage, the Omogenia, and more.
The entire interview follows:
The National Herald: Your All Holiness, how do you feel about your election and enthronement to the historic and venerable Metropolis of Thessaloniki?
Metropolitan Philotheos: Certainly, I feel a special emotion and, at the same time, I have a strong sense of responsibility as the Metropolitan of such an important metropolis, especially among such significant people as the Thessalonians, who look to the bishop as the person through whom they can be led in the life of the Church.
TNH: What thoughts were going through your mind as you ascended the episcopal throne on the day of your enthronement?
Metropolitan Philotheos: Thoughts that definitely prompted me to contemplate, and again I emphasize, the magnitude of the responsibility, especially when you find yourself inside such a historic nave as the Holy church of Aghia Sophia in Thessaloniki. When you see all these people looking at you. When you have beside you His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, who recommended you for this position. When you have next to you the representative of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Geron Emmanuel of Chalcedon, and in front of you the faces of the hierarchs of the Church of Greece who honored me with their honorable vote – certainly, the presence of the entire blessed people of God makes you feel a profound emotion. And you can only feel deeply moved about what it means to be a successor to these Saints of the Church, such as Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Gregory of Kallidisos, and others of the Church, the First in the city of Saint Demetrios.
TNH: In your enthronement homily, you made an extensive reference to the youth, and in a poetic manner, indeed. Truly, what do the young people tell you about the Church and Orthodox Faith in general?
Metropolitan Philotheos: The majority of young people are perhaps in a critical stance, distancing themselves from the life of the Church. However, there are also many individuals who strive to remain faithful to God’s will and to be consistently in the life of the Church. All these people, the young ones, seek and want above all honesty from the shepherds of the Church. They look to the officials of the Church, asking not only for words about God but primarily for an experience, a way of life that aligns with what Christians teach. As for all of us shepherds of the Church, we must strive to remain steadfast in this common life and discourse, in faith and experience.
TNH: What concerns them the most? Do they have existential and eschatological questions?
Metropolitan Philotheos: Many people, especially young ones, have such existential questions. I believe that if there were no such existential questions, there wouldn’t be the phenomena of violence and lawlessness, especially among the youth. [Human] tendencies and their struggle to find a genuine life lead them down wrong paths.
The offer of life from the Church, of a life in Christ, is for people to find the real life that exists close to Christ.
TNH: How aware are we today of what the Church is, as opposed to what it is not?
Metropolitan Philotheos: This is a constant struggle, and I think it is a life-long struggle to be able to understand what the Church truly is. We must avoid various temptations that the devil presents to lead us somewhere different from what the Church is. We must stay in substantial connection with the Body of Christ. We must strive within the Church to live authentically the life of Christians with our falls, with our difficulties, but never distancing ourselves from what the Church is and, above all, from the way of life that the Church professes.
TNH: Would you say that it is ‘the other way of life’?
Metropolitan Philotheos: Exactly, it is the other, the different way of life that aims to lead people to union with their Creator, to salvation, to overcoming and victory over death. This is what the Church truly brings to the world, the overcoming and victory over death.
TNH: There is talk in Greece today about legalizing same-sex marriage. Do you have an opinion on the matter?
Metropolitan Philotheos: My opinion cannot differ from the opinion of the Orthodox Church, which is clearly expressed that such a thing would open the floodgates for adoption [of children] by these individuals, something that undermines the foundations of the family itself.
TNH: What is your opinion on the Greek Omogenia of America? What are we to you?
Metropolitan Philotheos: The Greek Omogenia consists of people who maintain faith and live the Church. Together, we form a unified and indivisible Body, the Holy Body of Christ, participating in the life of the Holy Church. At the same time, you are those who, separated from the motherland, can and have the homeland, our traditions, your national consciousness within your hearts as a precious treasure, which you also offer to other people. We are always moved when we see these magnificent parades on March 25. You are our brothers and sisters, and despite the distance, in reality, we remain siblings, constantly close.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska's official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails.
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