After 50 years of division, the community of St Nektarios of Wollongong in New South Wales officially returned to the fold of the Archdiocese of Australia on Sunday, 6 June.

The Mayor of Shellharbour, Councillor Marianne Saliba, NSW state MP Paul Scully and Alison Byrnes representing Federal MP Sharon Bird were at the church with the community to welcome Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios of Australia.

The archbishop presided over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy accompanied by Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis and Bishop Emilianos of Meloa.

Community president Tzortis and vice-president KathyTzanis presented the archbishop with an engolpion for his role in healing divisions.

Dancers entertain the community in the hall after the church service. Photo: Mark Petropoulos

“We never expected that we would live this moment. Many attempts in the past, failed. We praise God because now, all together, united, we will move forward for the good of the Church and Hellenism. We express our gratitude to Archbishop Makarios because without him, this unification would not have been possible,” said Mr Tzortzis.

The parish priest of St Nektarios, Fr Anastasios Bozikis, spoke of the theological significance of unity and love.

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“We first thank St Nektarios for the miracle we are living today and then our Archbishop, for without his care and help, we would not have reached the point that we have today. The Archbishop’s love and patience have won,” said Fr Anastasios.

Archbishop Makarios praised the community for the brave decision it took to return to the jurisdiction of the church. He praised the role played by Fr Anastasios.

“I thank all of you for trusting me,” he added, “and I promise you that together we will move forward.”

“This great spiritual success makes not only you rejoice, but all of us. I confess with all my sincerity that, from today, our Archdiocese becomes spiritually brighter because yet another schism has been erased and has disappeared,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Makarios speaks to a parishioner of St Nektarios in Wollongong. Photo: Mark Petropoulos

He called on other communities in Australia who were in schism to reconsider.

“I invite them to come to us; to come to the light and to the truth. We love them and we want to be all together. I do not believe it is worthy for our brothers, who have the same blood and the same faith, to live outside the Church. They also deserve the one true Church and I am personally prepared to receive them in our Holy Archdiocese,” Archbishop Makarios said.