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Bishop Silouan of Sinope visits the Greek Orthodox Communities in Wallaroo, Port Pirie, and Broken Hill

With the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, His Grace Bishop Silouan of Sinope embarked on a three-day journey to visit regional communities in or near SA in the vast District of Adelaide, from 15th to 17th of June 2024. This journey was timed around the monthly liturgy held at the parish of St George in Port Pirie, which is this year celebrating its centenary as South Australia’s oldest parish (coinciding with the centenary of the Archdiocese), and recently celebrated its parish feast day. His Grace maximised the opportunity that this visit afforded him by combining it with a visit to the Parish of St Nicholas Wallaroo, and a short cross over the NSW border to return to Broken Hill.

The first stop was Wallaroo for the liturgy on Saturday morning 15th of June, which at only two hours was a short hop compared with some of the other journeys. The Church was opened by Fr Michael Psaromatis of St Demetrios (Salisbury), who celebrates the liturgy monthly for the locals and visitors. A hierarchical divine liturgy was celebrated by His Grace Bishop Silouan, assisted by Fr Jeremy Krieg of the Greek Welfare Centre, with Fr Michael fulfilling the chanting duties. His Grace spoke about the life of St Augustine of Hippo, who was commemorated on that day, with a particular emphasis on his great repentance. The service was followed by a luncheon hosted by the ever-hospitable parish committee.

From Wallaroo, His Grace continued the 1.5h trip up the coast to Port Pirie. He was met there by Fr Panagiotis Photakis, parish priest of Holy Cross (Glenelg) who regularly travels to Port Pirie to serve the liturgy for the locals. His Grace celebrated Vespers that evening, followed by the Sunday liturgy the next day. Enriching our Sunday worship was the presence – praying from the altar – of the elderly Fr Achillios Karamanidis, former Parish Priest of St George, Port Pirie, who served the Parish faithfully, lovingly, and with fear of God for over fifteen (15) years until his retirement three years ago. His Grace addressed the people on the topic of prayer, exhorting them to do three things: to thank God for all that He has done, to entreat His mercy for the forgiveness of all of our faults and failings, and to ask Him for whatever is on our heart. His Grace was warmly received by around 40 members of the local community and had the opportunity to see their centenary yearbook for the first time. The community were also very excited in that they are very much looking forward to His Eminence Archbishop Makarios’ scheduled visit next month.

From Port Pirie, His Grace proceeded to the third and final destination of the trip – Broken Hill. The 4h trip to Broken Hill is substantial, but up to an hour-and-a-half shorter than travelling direct from Adelaide. In Broken Hill His Grace was met by Fr Jeremy again, together with a small delegation from the Central Philoptochos who offered hospitality and set up a small bookstore display. His Grace celebrated Vespers on Saturday evening with a small group of locals, at the same Roman Catholic parish that had been used in previous visits (Ss Peter and Paul) and was again kindly offered. During the service, His Grace addressed the people on the topic of the Holy Trinity and the two natures of Christ, in honour of the Holy Fathers celebrated that day. After the service the faithful retired to the Roman Catholic cathedral, which had a small hall for offering refreshments and where an opportunity was created to further catechise the local faithful about the teachings and traditions of our holy Orthodox faith.

The next day, zeal of this small community really shone through, as they were ready and waiting at the Church even before the beginning of the service. Their fervour was magnified all the more by the fact that Broken Hill had overnight been subjected to near-freezing temperatures, and the congregants endured the full three-hour hierarchical Divine Liturgy in a church with no heating. After the service, they again returned to the hall at the Roman Catholic cathedral for refreshments.

On this occasion also the group were able to spend some time with the locals, who took them to see some of the local attractions and to share a meal at one of the local cafes before the travellers finally set off on the 5.5 hour return trip to Adelaide.

These extended periods after the services were also an important opportunity to get to know the locals and their stories. In particular, one of those present for their first Orthodox service was an enquirer, who at only 50 years of age was already blessed with 14 grandchildren, and who learned for the first time the significance of the Orthodox practice of making the sign of the Cross. She was one among a few who also gave the travellers gifts – religious items of their own making – which they asked to be given to others. Thus, those who were intended to be the targets of outreach in turn became partakers. It is moments and events like these that give extra hope for these missionary endeavours – even when the attendees seem few, those few can act as “the leaven that leavens the whole lump”, and the cumulative witness continues to grow. It is this hope that spurs and inspires those who partake in these trips. May God continue to bless these endeavours, through the fervent pastoral prayers of our primate and shepherd, Archbishop Makarios.