His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew chose the online method of Skype to communicate with Archbishop Stylianos, and hundreds of clerics and laymen during the 11th Clergy-Laity Congress held last week in Sydney where he urged the Greek Orthodox communities around Australia – damaged by schisms – to join forces in order to strengthen their relations. Offering financial help to Greece, supporting the freedom of the Greek community in Turkey, and resolving the Cyprus issue were resolutions made at the end of the meeting, along with a message from His All Holiness to finally unite all Greek Orthodox groups.
The conference was held in Sydney from Sunday 20 to Wednesday 23 January and was viewed as a historic due to the innovative decision by His All Holiness to use Skype.
The Ecumenical Patriarch, who represented the work of the Clergy-Laity Congress of the Metropolitan Detroit, Mr Nicholas, urged the Clergy-Laity Congress, held under the chairmanship of Archbishop Stylianos, “to achieve their goals and to contribute, as the previous in the fruition of the comprehensive work of the local Church.”
The Archbishop invited Australia to visit the seat of the Ecumenical Throne in Phanar. The meeting was attended also by Metropolitan Rethymno and Avlopotamos Eugene, representatives of political authority and Local Government, the ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus and eminent citizens of Australian society. The opening session of the Assembly was opened by Minister of Tourism and Arts, George Souris, representative of the Prime Minister of New South Wales, Barry O’Farrell, who was abroad.
Mr Bartholomew made special reference to the restoration of relations between the Greek Orthodox Community of Sydney with the Archdiocese of Australia and wished to follow the example of the Sydney Greek Orthodox Community.
“Quite particular mention needs to be made of highlighting the long, arduous and laborious effort of integration of schismatic communities in the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Orthodox Church, under the maphorion of Your Holiness,” adding that the stability and prosperity of the Archdiocese of Australia “would not be possible” without the good, long-term cooperation of the clergy and the people of Australia.
In his reply the Archbishop of Australia expressed his gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarch for the personal contact with the people and the clergy in Australia.
“We are grateful once again … because you wanted to share with us your personal voice,” said Archbishop Stylianos.
The Archbishop attributed the success of the negotiations by Bishop Ezekiel Dervis and the President of Union of Communities, Quarters Costas Konti, the Community in Sydney, Apolloniados Bishop Seraphim, administrative factors, Harry Danalis, M. and H. Tsilimo Berlecha and legal advisors Archbishop Michael Diamandis and Nick Papanastasiou.
Also, His Eminence referred to the celebration of 25 years of theological school St. Andrew, a $1.9 million grant from the Commonwealth Government for the construction of a complex on Bribie Island, near Brisbane, “especially through youth conferences, camps, recreation, lessons and popular Orthodox spirituality”.
Even the Archbishop referred to the “exponential growth” of institutions of “Vasilieadas” in Sydney and other projects that expand their spiritual, social and educational services in the Greek Orthodox church congregation in Australia.
The Clergy-Laity Congress, which serves almost one million Greek Orthodox citizens in Australia, is held every four years and draws together parish priests, community presidents, ladies’ auxiliary presidents, youth, academics and observers from Australia and overseas.
*In next week’s English edition we look at the history of the Bribie Island Greek Orthodox Church and where it’s headed