After eight years of hard work and disappointments, the new Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, one of the very few churches in Australia featuring a unique Byzantine dome, has finally opened its doors in South Australia.
An exact replica of Byzantine architecture, the dome now adorns the roof of the church constituting a new landmark for the Athelstone area, where thousands of Greeks have resided since the early 1900s.
“Following many years of hard work from our parishioners, and fundraising events that our community held in order to collect the funds needed, we have managed to build our own little jewel in this foreign land,” says father Efthimios Efthimiou, the driving force behind this initiative.
The Parish of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene is the only Greek Orthodox Church in South Australia that has managed to complete a construction project whose overall cost-to-date amounts to $2.5 million.
“This is the only church in SA that’s constructed and designed in the same way as the ones back in the homeland and we feel humbled and blessed to see our collective effort finally come to fruition,” says father Efthimios revealing that the idea of this project was born as soon as he was entrusted with the church as parish priest ten years ago.
“I just couldn’t bear welcoming and greeting our parishioners in a hut with a tin roof.
“I wanted to build a church worthy of our Orthodoxy,” he says.
Greek Australian builder John Paliaris was also invited to assist with the construction.
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“We are extremely grateful to have had Mr Paliaris, an experienced builder who volunteered his services and helped us out tremendously throughout this process. We would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his invaluable contribution.”
The first liturgy in the new church was officiated by his Grace Bishop Nikandros in late January.
This weekend, 8-month-old Maria, will be the first child to be christened at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene.
“After all those years, it means the world to us that finally our children and grandchildren will have their own beautiful church to come to and we feel humbled by the way the younger generation has supported and embraced our efforts. They now ask to get married and christen their children here and that’s just the most wonderful thing about our little community, the sense of belonging,” says Maria’s grandmother, Ms Maritsa Orfanou, noting that the church committee is still in the process of getting the church’s hagiographies (frescos) completed by a professional iconographer.
“We still have a long way to go but our doors are open, and we are looking forward to welcoming all members of the community in our church,” concluded Father Efthimios.