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Patriarch Theodoros II and Michael Psaros – Examples to Be Imitated

When Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew dared to recognize the Church of Ukraine as autocephalous, Russia reacted violently. Putin considered, as was proved retrospectively, especially from the war he declared, Ukraine as his fiefdom.

Time passed and none of the other leaders of autocephalous churches, not the other patriarchs, not even the Archbishop of Albania, followed the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The influence of the Russians on them seemed to be great.

The difficult start was made by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II, a modest and humble hierarch, but brave and with a heart beating with patriotism. He knew that the Russians would exact a price for this decision. As he has paid.

On October 8 the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in recognition of the bravery and Christian conscience he has displayed in the performance of his duties, presented him with the Athenagoras Human Rights Award at a major banquet in Manhattan. It was a just and well-deserved honor and recognition.

He didn’t disappoint. On the contrary – the speech he delivered will be long remembered.

It was a true sermon of humanity and faith. He spoke with love and emotion about ‘his’ children in Africa “who don’t have two shoes to wear.” He spoke about our faith, about God.

But the most important point of his speech, the one that will be remembered were his first 11words – not from the text he read: “My heart is Greek and that’s why I will speak Greek.”

Until then – and he was the final speaker, of course – only a few Greek words had been used by the previous speakers.

He spoke entirely in Greek – a choice that is open to debate.

For my part, however, it is questionable why organizations, such as the Archons, a leading and powerful organization, who offer, so much, composed of generally well-educated members, and which is devoted to serving an institution such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, avoid, like “the devil avoids the incense,” to make even partial – I clarify – use of the Greek language.

Mind you, I am not advocating that entire speech should be in Greek – only in special cases, as did, for example, the Ecumenical Patriarch, who delivered his taped message to the Patriarch of Alexandria entirely in Greek.

But shouldn’t Greek be partially used, to give such events the stamp of Hellenism, to thus identity the organization? Isn’t this a Greek organization? Do not the Church leaders here, and others, have a historical responsibility to do this?

Friday night the Archons honored their fellow Archon, Michael Psaros, with the Nicholas Bouras Human Rights Award. This was also a just honor and recognition for a Greek-American who, like Bouras, literally saved, on different occasions, our Church.

Psaros’ speech was also unique, remarkable in its own right that evening. He focused on two elements: His proud, grateful, and touching references to the role played in his life by his immigrant grandmother and his grandfather, who was a barber. It was hymn-like, an outpouring of the soul.

But, in addition, he also did something that is rarely done nowadays at such gatherings: He spoke with knowledge and passion about the national issues of Greece, from Aghia Sophia and Thrace to the Aegean and Cyprus.

You will tell me, “but these are self-evident matters.”

They should be, however, in our Community, they are not.

But they can and should be spoken of. It’s a matter of leadership. Think, for example, how much of an impact it would have made if Psaros had had taken the lead on this issue.

Yes, a change of mindset is needed. And a recognition of important realities.

One reality is that we are Americans, of course. But at the same time we are also Greeks. Whether we like it or not, this is who we are.

There is no reason to betray our parents and grandparents. There is no reason to deny ourselves. And it is not required to speak Greek perfectly.

A Greek soul is required – like that of the humble hierarch who with so much pride and love preached Saturday night about his service on the world’s poorest continent in a speech that showed us the value of humanity, love, and patriotism.

He spoke like an expatriate who plants his feet firmly on the ground he walks on, who knows who he is and what his debt is to those on whose shoulders he stands.

Bravo to both of them.


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