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Ecumenical Patriarch: “We belong to Christ and to His Holy Church”

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided over the Divine Liturgy, on Tuesday, 23 August, 2022, for the leave-taking (apodosis) of the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, at the celebrating Church in His village, of Saints Theodore in Imvros.

Along with His All-Holiness, His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Moschonisia and His Grace Bishop Rafael of Ilion concelebrated the divine liturgy.

Present also amongst them also were Their Eminences, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra and Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imvros and Tenedos, Archons of the Great Church of Christ, the Presidents and executives of the Imbrian Associations of Athens and Thessaloniki, and a multitude of believers.

His All-Holiness, in his homily, pointing out that the Virgin Mary has a central place in liturgical life and in popular piety and is honored with depth of faith and special reverence, noted:

“All the feasts of Theotokos have an incomparable theological content, and all the truth of the Christian life is concentrated in them.  The image of the Panagia with Christ in her arms embodies and expresses the entire theology of the mystery of the divine humanity, the central mystery of our faith. God assumes human nature, identifies himself with us, in order to save man from the slavery of decay and alienation and to open the way to deification by grace. He is not a distant God, like the God of the philosophers, but is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.

The soteriological dimension of the presence of the Virgin at the center of church life is truly insurmountable. Many of you will know that the title Theotokos was given to the Virgin Mary by the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, an eminently Christological Council. Since then, the Virgin Mary is depicted together with Christ, a tradition that Orthodoxy preserves and defends with pious zeal.”

He then emphasised that also in the piety of the Imbrians, honoring the Mother of God occupies a central position.

“It is no coincidence that five of the nine parish Churches on our island are dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and four of them are Churches of the Dormition of the Theotokos. It expresses our trained spiritual senses, the fact that the fifteenth of August is experienced here as the Easter of the summer, as a resurrection and doxological experience, full of joy and light and hope, as an unshakable certainty that the history of humanity and all our lives are directed by Christ. We belong to Christ and His Holy Church. Eternal life in Christ is our final destination.”

In his speech, the Patriarch also referred to the parallel events of honour and memory for a great child of Imbros, the blessed Hieromonk and Teacher of the Nation, Bartholomeos Koutloumusianos.

His life is inextricably linked with the Hagiorite Metochion of the Holy Archangels near Glyky. On Saturday night, with great emotion and compunction, we held a holy vigil in the renovated Katholikon Church of the Metochion of Koutloumousiou Monastery, and we remembered that the first school in Imbro was opened in his house in the year 1809, where children from all our villages began to be taught our language, the alphabet and our Orthodox Faith.

A great achievement of Bartholomeos Koutloumusianos is also the correction, restoration and publication of the liturgical books of the Church, which are still in use today. As we said the day before yesterday in Glyky at the end of the Divine Liturgy, Bartholomeos Koutloumusianos, whose name I humbly bear, as a precious bequest from our Geronda, the then Metropolitan Meliton of Imbros and Tenedos, belongs not only to Imbros, but to the entire Genus, and to the whole of Orthodoxy. May God rest his soul, He who deeply loved Imbros, its people and traditions, in the tents of the righteous”.

His All-Holiness then expressed his delight to His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Imbros and Tenedos for the initiative to dedicate this year to Bartholomeos Koutloumousianos on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of his birth. Concluding his speech, he addressed special words to his Imbrian compatriots.

“In a little while, all of us will return to the usual and same of our lives, so that each one can continue his struggle and his ministry. We wish all compatriots who will spend the winter here, and our children who will soon return to school, good strength and every blessing from God. Your Patriarch will always remember you in his prayers, and he urges you to pray to our Lord and to his Virgin Mother, to cover and protect the Great Church, our Patriarchate and our Genus”.

It should be noted that on Wednesday, in the morning, His All-Holiness, with his entourage, left Imbros for Constantinople.

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