The Archiepiscopal Vicar of the Archdiocesan District of Northcote, His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta attended a formal dinner given in honour of the visit to Australia of His Holiness Mar Awa III, Catholicos Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, On Tuesday, May 10, 2022, representing His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia Mr and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
This was a significant event for the Assyrian community of Australia, as the Primate of the Assyrian Church of the East visited the fifth continent for the first time, after his ordination on September 10, 2021. During the meal, which was held in the suburb of Coolaroo in Melbourne, His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta addressed all who were present with a warm greeting, while conveying the prayers and blessings of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia.
During his speech, His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta referred to the common historical course of the Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, but also to the common challenges they are called to face on the fifth continent (Australia): “To preach our faith and maintain our cultural traditions in a society that is becoming increasingly secular and hostile to Christianity”.
“We have a lot to learn from each other because we are related communities in Australia,” said His Grace Bishop Evmenios, “Not least because so many members of the Assyrian community found refuge in Greece before coming to Australia and speak better Greek than many of us. But these are bonds that go back millennia. We cannot forget that some of the most revered saints of our church, Saint Ephraim, or Mar Abrem in Assyria, to which our Archbishop of Australia is particularly devoted, and Saint Isaac of Nineveh, were Assyrians. We also do not forget that our musical tradition and hymnology has its roots in composers such as Saint Romanos The Melodist, another Assyrian Christian. The very scientific work of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the detection of the Byzantine influences in the operation of the Church of the East certifies the continuous communication and dialogue between the two churches and our holy traditions”.
Addressing His Holiness Mr. Mar Awa III, His Grace Bishop Evmenios acknowledged that His Holiness’ love and respect for the Orthodox Church is well known; a relationship that was established by his meeting with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in 2011. “Like you, who lead the Church of the East from Arbil to the plains of Nineveh, so our Ecumenical Patriarch was forced to lead his church from Constantinople, with all the difficulties that it entails,” His Grace said. “So, if there is a church in the world that understands your trials and tribulations, but can also testify to your morale and courage, it is ours. We salute your persistence and your indomitability in the face of so many difficulties “.
In concluding, His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta expressed the expectation that the relationship of mutual support and respect of the two Churches in Australia will continue, stating, among other things: “In Australia, we hope to build on the respectable tradition of communication and mutual support and respect, based on our common approach, attitude, traditions and liturgical and cultural heritage, because we are all one in Christ, as St. Paul states to the Galatians. We will do what we can to cultivate in this situation and in this country, a harmonious and productive relationship that seeks to spread the message of the One who is Love. “We have a lot to learn from each other and to share as we build the churches, schools and other infrastructure that are necessary to ensure the survival of our faith in this country.”
It is noted that the official dinner began with the welcome of His Grace Mar Benyamin Elya Bishop of Victoria and New Zealand of the Assyrian Church of the East, while in addition to His Grace Bishop Evmenios of Kerasounta, the Honorable Ros Spence MP, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Community Sport and Youth, State Member for Yuroke, Mrs Maria Vamvakinou MP, Federal Member for Calwell, and the Very Revd Fr Denis Stanley EV, Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, addressed wishes and greetings to all those who were in attendance. The keynote address was delivered by His Holiness Mar Awa III, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.
The official dinner was also attended by: His Eminence Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon Assyrian Church of the East, his Grace Mar Abris Youkhana Bishop of Kirkuk and Diana Assyrian Church of the East, his Grace Mar Benyamin Elya Bishop of Victoria and New Zealand, Assyrian Church of the East, Mr Andrew Giles, Member for Scullin in Victoria and Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs; Cities and Urban Infrastructure, and Shadow Minister Assisting for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Jana Stewart, Labor Senator for Victoria, the Rt Revd Bishop Paul White representing The Most Reverend Dr Philip Freier Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, the Very Rev’d Fr Denis Stanley EV, Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, representing The Most Reverend Peter A Comenso Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, the Very Rev’d Archpriest Dr Peter A.L. Hill, Director of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Institute, representing the Russian Orthodox Church, the Rev’d Cor-bishop Fadhel Qas Ishaq, Syriac Catholic Church, representing Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa Syriac Catholic Church, the Rev’d Fr Sijeesh Pullenkunnal Abraham, representing The Most Reverend Bishop Mar Bosco Puthur, Syro-Malabar Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle – Melbourne, Major Colin Palstra, representing The Salvation Army – Australia Territory, the Rev’d Fr George El-Khoury, Antiochian Orthodox Church, the Rev’d Father Richard Jabour, Maronite Catholic Church, the Very Rev’d Cor-bishop Korkis Toma, the Rev’d Fr Antawan Mikhail and the Rev’d Fr Morris Daood, parish priests of the Assyrian Church of the East in Victoria, the Rev’d Sandy Boyce, Executive Officer – Victorian Council of Churches, Councillor Carly Moore, Mayor of Hume City, Councillor Lina Messina, Mayor of the City of Darebin, Councillor Lambros Tapinos, Deputy Mayor of Moreland City, Councillor Sam Misho, Deputy Mayor of Hume City, Councillor Jim Overend, Hume City Council, Commissioner Mohamed Mohideen, Victorian Multicultural Commission, Ms Sheena Frost, CEO – Hume City Council, Ms Kathleen Matthews-Ward, Labor Candidate for Broadmeadows, Mr Anthony Cianflone, Labor Candidate for Pascoe Vale and Inspector Shayne Kerley, Community Engagement Victoria Police.