In a highly emotionally charged atmosphere, on Friday, 19 January 2024, the day of the Feast of the Holy Epiphany, according to the Julian calendar, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew officiated at the Divine Liturgy, which was held in the old Holy Church of Saint Basil in Triglia, in the Holy Metropolis of Bursa, which the local Municipality, after renovating it, uses as a cultural centre. It is recalled that working Slavic-speaking Orthodox Christians live in Triglia and in the wider area, in which the Holy Metropolis of Bursa takes care of their spiritual needs.
Present for the Feast Day Divine Liturgy were Their Eminences, Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon and Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi, clergy and monastics, Archons of the Great Church of Christ, His Excellency, Ambassador Mr. Konstantinos Koutras, Consul General of Greece in Constantinople, as well as the Consul Generals of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, Roman Nedilskyi, Sergiu Gurduza, και Aleksandre Jishkariani respectively, along with their colleagues, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Consulate General of the Republic of North Macedonia Mr. Iljaz Feta, the Consuls Ms. Kristina Radović and Mr. Ratimir Gajić, on behalf of the Consulate General of Serbia in Constantinople, the Consul of Bulgaria in Bursa Mr. Momchil Rusinov, the Mayor of Nea Propontida (Halkidiki) Mr. Emmanuel Karras, with his colleagues, representatives of Triglian Associations together with many people from Triglia, as well as believers from nearby Bursa.
During the Divine Liturgy, the “I Believe” (Symbol of Faith) and the “Our Father” (Lord’s Prayer) were recited in Greece, Ukrainian, Romanian, Arabic, Georgian and Turkish.
In His address, His All-Holiness referred with particular emotion to the celebration of the Epiphany in historic Triglia, pointing out, among other things, that “the souls of our ancestors, who rest in these soils expecting the Resurrection of the dead, also rejoice. Everyone is with us in this festive gathering.”
He then expressed his thanks to the people of Triglia who were in the birthplace of their ancestors, and to all the other pilgrims.
“Visiting the blessed lands of Asia Minor is always a source of intense emotions, existential overwhelming and renewal. We cannot feel and understand these feelings unless we find ourselves on this holy land.
As our elders tell us about the Epiphany Feast Day, here in Triglia, after the Blessing of the waters, the Priests, accompanied by the young people who dove into the sea to retrieve the Cross, visited all the houses to sanctify them. Here, faith and piety were organically bound up with life. Everything began with the invocation of God’s name. The Feast days defined and beautified the time of life and the rhythms of everyday life. Miraculous events were associated with villages and towns, with the chapels and monasteries, with the sanctified springs, with the great feast days and festivals, with the saints and martyrs who were the models, the protectors and the support of the faithful.
It is a fact that today in Asia Minor we do not find the flourishing communities of Greeks, our schools and noble institutions, our Churches, parishes and monasteries. But we find the imprint of our ancestors everywhere. We discover the stamp of Orthodoxy, the love of God, philanthropy and charity, love and care for nature, peaceful coexistence and cooperation with their fellow citizens, but also their hospitable attitude towards visitors, which impressed foreign travellers. Our ancestors drew inspiration and strength from the inexhaustible source of Orthodox piety, always praising God for His favours and blessings.”
Next, the Ecumenical Patriarch pointed out:
“We owe a great deal to the Greeks of Asia Minor, who, even as refugees, wherever they were in the world, saved and cultivated the Orthodox identity and its high values. Those who left their ancestral homes, poor and naked, took with them, written indelibly in their minds and deep in their hearts, all the spiritual wealth and invaluable experience of centuries, the cultural legacy of the Greek Nation, which was inextricably linked to faith in Christ and the orthodox ethos.
Today, when spiritual values are undervalued, the great importance and relevance of this spiritual heritage is revealed. That is why we repeat before you, dear pilgrims, what we always emphasise in similar circumstances: Do not forget your roots! Teach your children the traditions of the Nation. Convince the new generation to feel proud of their Asia Minor origin. Motivate the young men and women to visit the unforgettable homelands, to get to know the fatherland up close. And be sure that when they are here they will feel not just as visitors, but will feel deep in their hearts that they belong here, they will discover unknown spiritual treasures, hidden wonders, they will hear unspoken words. Their souls will be filled with gratitude for their ancestors, who loved and beautified this place.
Similar feelings, dear Christians, overwhelm the pilgrims, when they are at the Phanar, the Venerable Centre of Orthodoxy, where the holy and sacred things of the Nation have been preserved for many centuries and guarded tirelessly. From there your Patriarch will also start and in the future, as long as the God who loves mankind allows us, to visit the sacred pilgrimages of the Nation and liturgise in the Churches of Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace. We invite you to participate as often as you can. And we ask you to pray for the Holy Great Church of Christ, so that Christ may protect its mission and keep its witness in the modern world. May Christ illuminate and protect us who have the privilege of ministering to her”.
Concluding his speech, His All-Holiness thanked the Mayor of Mudanya Municipality, Mr. Hayri Türkyılmaz, and the competent authorities, for the permission they gave for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and for all the help they offered, as well as all those who contributed to the organisation of the feast day.
Prior to this, His Eminence Metropolitan Ioakeim of Bursa addressed His All-Holiness.
Immediately after, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Hierarchs, the officials and the faithful people, accompanied by many permanent residents of Triglia made their way in procession to the wharf of Komopolis, where His All-Holiness presided over the ceremony of the throwing of the Holy Cross into the waters.
During the ceremony, six faithful believers dived into the cold waters and the Holy Cross was retrived by Mr. Victor Galip Yavuz, from Constantinople, to whom the Ecumenical Patriarch offered a cross as a blessing, while he blessed and congratulated all the swimmers.
After the ceremony, the President of the local football club welcomed the Patriarch and offered him a scarf in the colours of the local team as a souvenir.
Then, at the old Greek school of Triglia, which was founded under the care of Triglia-born Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Smyrna (Kalafati) and recently renovated by the local municipality, the Mayor of Mudanya Municipality, Mr. Hayri Türkyılmaz warmly welcomed His All-Holiness and the pilgrims from Greece, and referred to his previous visits to Rafina, Nea Triglia and Nea Moudania, where many Triglia residents live, and reiterated the importance of peaceful coexistence.
His All-Holiness, in his brief greeting, congratulated the Shepherd, His Eminence Metropolitan Ioakeim of Bursa, for the work taking place in his ecclesiastical province and once again expressed his thanks to the Mayor and the local authorities for their facilities, as well as to the pilgrims who travelled from the Constantinople and Greece to participate in the feast day. Afterwards, he blessed the Vasilopita of the Nea Triglias Branch of the Association of World-wide people Triglia and wished everyone many years for the feast day, and prayed that peace would prevail in the new year all over the world. The President of the Branch, Mr. Anastasios Mastrogiannis, as well as the Mayor of Nea Propontida, thanked the Patriarch.
During the short celebratory event, the Choir of the expatriate Cultural Organisation “Istos” performed Epiphany carols and traditional songs.