CHANIA, Crete (Greece) – The people, the island and the Church of Crete welcomed warmly His-All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who arrived in Chania International Airport yesterday, June 15 to convene the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which will take place June 19-26.
At hand for the welcome were His Eminence Archbishop Irinaios of Crete, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Yiannis Amanatidis, the Governor of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis, the Chief of Protocol Ambassador Aghi Balta, high ranking officers of the Armed Forces, local officials and clergy.
Upon his arrival the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his “joy of fulfillment of our historical mission” and urged the Orthodox Church across the world to join him. The Holy and Great Council, said His-All Holiness, is “our sacred mission,” and although the joy of the historic events are clouded by the decision of some churches not to attend, “the responsibility for their decision lies with those same churches and their Primates, since, just five months ago, at the Synaxis of the Orthodox Primates in Geneva, we made a decision and put our signatures to it, that we should come to Crete in June and realize this vision held over many years, which all our churches cherish, to declare and proclaim the unity of our Orthodox Church, and to examine and reach a common resolution of the problems that are of concern to the Orthodox world.”
Later in the afternoon, the Ecumenical Patriarch visited the Orthodox Academy of Crete, greeted the staff and toured the site and facilities where the Holy and Great Council will be held.
“Crete welcomes you, Your All-Holiness, offering its aromatic herbs dictamnus and thyme, prays for the unity of Orthodoxy and asks for your blessing,” said a verse of the traditional Cretan song at the dinner offered by the local hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilochios of Kissamos and Selinou. Responding to the welcome, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke of the Cretan hospitality, geniality and nobility and said that Crete welcomes and embraces all Orthodox including those who decided not to come.
Today, June 16, at the Nautical Museum of Crete in Chania, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Nikos Kotzias hosted an official welcome dinner for the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Primates of the Orthodox Church who arrived in Crete the last two days. Mr. Kotzias in his greeting assured his guests that “The Hellenic State will contribute in every way, focused on unity and love, for the caring of the people and the cooperation of the Orthodox Churches, all the churches and secular people.”
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his response spoke of the role of Orthodoxy in the 21st century.
“The Orthodox Church is the ark of the pure Christian tradition that offers support and consolation, because Orthodoxy managed to maintain even today…the mystical experience and the experience of personal communion with the personal God despite the explosive technological and scientific evolution,” said His All-Holiness.
Speaking about the Holy and Great Council, the Ecumenical Patriarch said, “[the Council]is of great importance, because it shall offer the opportunity for the unified voice of Orthodoxy to be expressed and shall deliver a single message of true faith, real hope and peaceful reconciliation to our world that is in conflict.”
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