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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: We will keep guarding Thermopylae “for as long as God wills”

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of his election as Bishop (Metropolitan of Philadelphia), assured that he would continue his ministry steadfastly, guarding Thermopylae, “for as long as God wills”, stressing that “to Him we owe everything! We serve Him and worship Him! We entrust to Him the things to come… ‘May His will be done’, now and forever!”.

The Ecumenical Patriarch presided over the Divine Liturgy on Monday, 18 December 2023, at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Martyr Sebastian and his election anniversary, after which he performed a Trisagion (memorial service) for the repose of the souls of his immediate predecessor, the late Patriarch Demetrios, and the blessed Hierarchs who constituted the Holy and Sacred Synod on the day of his election as Bishop.

He then presided over the ceremony of the signing of the Patriarchal and Synodal Act for the inclusion in the Church’s Calendar of three new Saints: Nun Gabrielia (Papagianni), of Constantinople and Leros, Hieromonk Athanasios Hamakiotis, and Archimandrite Gervasios Paraskevopoulos.

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate remains attuned to the tumultuous waves of history, adept at documenting humanity’s endeavors throughout various historical epochs and effectively addressing them. It has imprinted its mark upon civilization and, by the grace of the omniscient God, the Most Holy Theotokos, and all the Saints, it will persist in bearing witness to the grace bestowed upon us and the hope that resides within us, even in the times to come.

We praise and thank the God of mercy for His heavenly and salvific gifts to His people, to the Church and the Greek Nation. The Church is the beacon of spiritual culture and precious values, which constitute our identity.

It is impossible to understand our identity without reference to Orthodoxy and its history, nor can we imagine our future without the decisive presence of its tradition and without the preservation of its values. If we are cut off from our spiritual roots, we will not survive.

This is a most glorious and blessed day for the people of God, whose life and piety are enriched by three new Saints, whom the eternal grace of God gave to the Church.

The saint is the indwelling place of God or the temple of God. God rests in the saints, as do the saints in God.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch acknowledged the lives, gifts, and contributions of the three new Saints of the Church, emphasising that “they embody living and graceful icons of the philanthropic God, inviting humanity into communion with His holiness within His Church—the ‘communion of the Saints.’”

Then, obviously moved, he referred to the 50th anniversary of his election as Bishop: “With profound emotion, we honour the memory of our esteemed Predecessor, Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios, a humble leader of love and reconciliation. It was his personal wish and endeavor that led to the proposal within the Holy and Sacred Synod to elevate Archimandrite Bartholomew Archontonis, the Director of his newly-formed Private Office, to the rank of Metropolitan.

May his memory be eternal and unforgettable, as well as the blessed Synodal members, through whose canonical vote I became Metropolitan of Philadelphia, and for the repose of the souls of whom we have just performed the Trisagion.

I never considered this election as an alleged reward for the fulfillment of the duties assigned to my person. On the contrary, from the first moment, I perceived it as a duty and responsibility to serve the Mother Church with greater responsibility, zeal and diligence, always in humility and faithfulness and obedience to it.”

“I am still shocked today by the trust shown by Patriarch Demetrios, our Elder and the other members of the Holy Synod to a new clergyman, whom they made Bishop of the Great Church and co-governor of its sacred affairs.

Naturally, this example of theirs was deeply engraved in me and guided my own choices for the staffing of the Patriarchal Court, during my thirty-two years of humble Patriarchy, by talented and hopeful clergy, whom I honoured through the promotion of the Patriarchal administration, despite their young age. The same applies to me and for the Hierarchical elections.

As we have mentioned in the past, ‘the needs of the Church determine whether and when a hierarchical election take place.’ This is what we experienced! That’s what we believe! This is what we do, for the glory of Christ and His Holy Great Church, observing the legacy we received from our late Predecessor.”

Many Hierarchs also attended the feast day celebrations: His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Demetrios of Princes’ Islands, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia, His Eminence Metropolitan Eirinaios of Myriophytos and Peristasis, His Eminence Metropolitan Paisios of Leros, Kalymnos and Astypalaia, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kifissia, His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Maroussi, Oropos and Marathon, His Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos of Miletus, His Eminence Metropolitan Stefanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos, His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Kydonia, His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Selyvria, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, His Eminence Metropolitan Bartholomeos of Smyrna, His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imbros and Tenedos, His Eminence Metropolitan Bessarion of Spain and Portugal, His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Forty Churches, His Grace Bishop Adrianos of Halicarnassus, His Grace Bishop Stefanos of Stratonikeia, His Grace Bishop Paisios of Xanthoupolis and Anglican Bishop Christopher Hill, clergy, monks and nuns, Ambassador Konstantinos Koutras, Consul General of Greece in Constantinople and many others.