On 25th and 26th April 2009, the Thronal Feast of in commemoration of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, Enlightener, first Bishop and Custodian of the Alexandrian Church was celebrated in great splendour.
On the eve of the feast following Great Vespers, an open musical event was held in the gardens of the Patriarchal Mansion, under the panoramic view of the illuminated building, by Haralambos Tsertos and the musicians Messrs Andreas Katsigiannis, Pantelis Bekiaropoulos and Ioannis Tsertos.
On the next day, 26th April, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, conducted the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Alexandria, together with His Grace Gabriel, Bishop of Mareotis, Patriarchal Vicar of Alexandria, His GraceSpyridon Bishop of Kanopou, Hegumen of the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of St Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria, His Grace Nikodemos Bishop of Nitria, Patriarchal Vicar of Cairo, and His Grace Gennadios Bishop of Nilopolis, Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod. His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Petros of Aksum was also present. In his homily, His Beatitude said:
“Come let us drink a new draught, not one marvelously brought forth from a barren rock, but the source of incorruption, which springs forth from the grave of Christ, in whom we are firmly established”.
My beloved children in the Risen Lord, Christ is risen!
In the elation and the spiritual delight of the days of Christ’s Resurrection, we have the great joy, the unique privilege and honour of celebrating on this day the memory of the great Apostle of the Church, St Mark, the Evangelist, Founder and Patron of our Patriarchate. We honour the holy memory of our Holy Apostle, together with those who, with missionary zeal, pride and courtesy always cntribute to the daily arduous efforts of our Patriarchate, with their whole heart. Their lives are an incarnation and witness of Christian love. The Sunday after Pascha, the Sunday of Thomas as our Churc calls it. Today we celebrate something unique and especially interesting for the benefit of our soul and its progress. The presence of the likeable figure of the “doubting Tomas”, from Patristic tradition, has many messages to offer and teach us today. Messages which have bearing on our faith in God, the manner in which we believe and express our relationship also with our fellow humans. Faith as a way of life, faith not as a superficial confession and external behaviour, but as a deeper and essential experience and daily sacrifice, actual life and attitude, beneficial creativity and a witness of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. A characteristic example of such faith is the “good unbelief” of the Apostle Thomas. A doubt which begins with the totally human doubting but along the way, as it develops, becomes a strong and mature faith, a salvific confession.
The Apostle Thomas, the seventh Apostle and Disciple of the Lord, was also called the “twin”. He is the Disciple of whome Christ said: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27) and in seeing His hands and side, Thomas said: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). He preached the Gospel of Christ to the Parths, the Medes, the Persians and the Indians. The king of the latter, because Tomas had also baptized his son, imprisoned him and sentenced him to death. The soldiers pierced him repeatedly with their
spears. We come now to the Alexandrian Church of today. We bring to mind tomorrow and the progress of our Missionary effort, this contemporary and continuous challenge of our time, with optimism. From the first moment of my elevation to the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria, through God’s grace, my sole concern has been the promotion, increase, co-ordination and further organization of the missionary and humanistic work of our Patriarchate. It is work that is being done so discreetly, inconspicuously, modestly, but in a good frame of mind, a zealous effort to contribute to oue fellow man, an effort which is inspired by te sacrificial love of the Crucified and Risen Jesus Christ. Almost two months ago I returned from a long missionary and pastoral journey to the Cameroon where I had served as a missionary Metropolitan. I traveled around for many days, day and night, to te immense expanses of the Northern Cameroon, where people still live in the “iron age”, and my eyes saw, for the “works of His wondrous hands, which I touched with my own hands…” and which His grace guides and blesses. When I returned to our Patriarchate, I said again what I have often repeated: “The future of our Patriarchate lies in Africa…” – and this my children is reality. A few days later I was preparing to visit Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia. I do not skimp on effort and labour before this duty, and love for missionary work “fills and fires my heart…” (Apostle Paul).
Our Church is essentially a missionary Church and with this outlook and direction it continues and takes root in the depths of the sun-baked African earth. After all this I wish to express my fervent Patriarchal gratitude, my heartfelt and congratulatory blessings to all those who support and assist our efforts. To you Mr Cairman of the Office bearers, my dear Mr. Spyridon Kamalakis, Chairman of the historic Order of te Paravalenes of St Savvas and Professor Theodore Panagopoulos, Cairman of the Office Bearers of the Apostle Mark, for all that you do with zeal and so much modesty, having as your sole criterion and measure, your love for the Church, our
Patriarchate and mankind, the living image of God! The Archon Office bearers are an institution dating back to the Byzantine years and have to do with the service which lay people offered the Great Church of Christ. All the same, the existence of lay officers in the body of the Church is a well-known reality also in the other ancient
Patriarchates of the East.
Specifically, in Alexandria, the Paravalenes were in existence from the time of Athanasios the Great; it is an order which was recently reorganized by our Patriarchate and which today is chaired by the Archon Great Logothetis, Mr Spyridon Kamalakis, revered in the name of St Savvas the Sanctified. In this way, the institution of the office bearers, as it has been developed and composed today, is a new recommendation for the efforts of eminent lay members and persons of the flock of the Ortodox Church, a proposal which is tried and functional and which, over and above its effectiveness, is a model and example for our world. The Archon Office bearers of the Alexandrian Throne give today and we hope will continue to give in the future, an even greater missionary witness of the Throne of St Mark, by supporting, strengthening and assisting our work, both morally and materially.
At this point I give my fervent thanks to all the beloved and select Office bearers for their love of the Apostolic Throne of Alexandria. To all of you pious visitors and pilgrims who have come to celebrate tis great day with us.
Welcome all of you and from the bottom of my heart I pray that you will always have health and every personal and family good, as well as joy in your life and your efforts.
May the Apostle Mark bless you and strengthen you! Christ is Risen! Many years!”
Before the end of the Eucharistic gathering, Hie Beatitude bestowed Patriarchal Offices on eight distinguished personalitites, specifically: the Office of Lady of the Hellenes Abroad to Mrs. Maria Bovali from the Cameroon; Archon Megas Aktouarios to Professor and Academic Mr. Achiilleas Tourkantonis; Archon Referendarios to Professor Leonidas Panagopoulos; Archon Notarios to Professor Demosthenes Asimakopoulos; Archon Skevolphylakos to Marine Antiquities Researcher Mr Harry Tzalas; Archon Lambadarios to Mr. Spyridon Komninakis; Archon Maestor to Musicologist Mr. Andreas Katsigiannis. The recently completed iconography of the Holy Patriarchal Chapelof Ss Theodoroi was then presented; the cost for this was borne by His Eminence Dimitrios, Metropolitan of Irinopolis and the Office bearers Messrs Dimitrios Sarakakis, Theodore Panagopoulos and Ioannis Pappos; also presented were the mosaic depictions which adorn the atrium of the Patriarchal Building, the cost of which was borne by Mr. Achilleas Tourkantonis.
A festal reception was then hosted in the Throne Room where His Beatitude expressed his gratitude to the members of the Patriarchal Brotherhood of Office bearers of “St Mark”, the most ancient Order of the Paravalenes and the historic Order of St Constantine.
On their behalf, the Office bearers of the Patriarchate, through the Chairman of the Brotherhood, Professor Theodoros Panagopoulos, declared their unfailing support for the multifaceted work of the 2nd Throne Church and in turn gave honour to the Archon Teacher of the Church, the Academic Mr. Christos Zerefos.
Finally, His Beatitude announced the stablishment and operation of the N.G.O. “Light of Africa” of the ancient Patriarchate and thanked Archimandrite Panteleimon Arathymos, Priest of the Patriarchal Throne, for the successful completion of the structure of the Organization.
At noon, the Chairman and the members of the Brotherhood of Office bearers of the Throne hosted an official lunch in honour of His Beatitude at the Hellenic Naval Club in Alexandria. The festal and liturgical events of the Feast of the Throne of the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa were graced by the presence of the Honourable Consul General of Greece in Alexandria Mr. George Diakofotakis, the President of SAE in Alexandria Mr Stephanos Tamvakis, members of the Hellenic Community Council of Alexandria, representatives of Greek Societies, Institutes and Organizations of the Great City, the Greeks of the Community and many pilgrims from Greece, Cyprus and other countries.