Stockholm, June 14, 2014
Your Excellencies Minister of Public Administration, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic and Civic Authorities,
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
I stand before You today in dutiful obedience to the calling and sacred mission entrusted to me by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Most Reverend Members of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople, who consecrated me to the episcopacy and elected me to serve the blessed people of God in the lands of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. Submitting myself to God’s will and accepting the Grace of the Holy Spirit, I undertake this lofty ministry with deep humility and the fear of God, in a spirit of sacrifice and thankfulness.
Sacrifice, because from this moment forward, I shall devote all my spiritual and physical energies to this Holy Metropolis and its faithful, and thankfulness, because the Grace of God – as expressed in the unanimous vote of the Holy and Sacred Synod of our Mother Church – deemed my humility worthy of serving the Church from this noble seat and bearing witness to our Orthodox faith in the Northern Lands, to a proud and diverse people with a rich history.
My arrival here today serves as a continuation of the 40-year-tradition of Archpastoral service offered before the altar of God by my sagacious predecessor, His Eminence Metropolitan Pavlos, who shall always be a mentor and spiritual guide to me due to his wealth of experience and wisdom. I ask for his God-abiding prayers and look to him for continual support.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium who served as Locum Tenens of this Holy Metropolis until my arrival in Stockholm. I am grateful for his invaluable assistance and for so willingly shouldering the extra responsibility and weight that was placed on his shoulders.
I also express my deep gratitude to His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France for his unwavering support and spiritual councils. His Eminence’s ministry and wisdom serves as a model example and inspiration to me, and I shall always strive to continually learn from his exemplary paradigm.
I wish to offer my heartfelt and fraternal thank to His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Kydonies, a lifelong friend and confidant, whose tireless work in the Phanar is a major service to our Great Mother Church. I shall be ever grateful to him for his prayers and ever-present love. I am humbled to be in the presence of such outstanding hierarchs and honored to be numbered among their ranks. I ask that they always keep me in their prayers and strengthen me with their words of spiritual nourishment.
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, I speak to you in a spirit of thankfulness, first and foremost, because as Orthodox Christians, our identity lies in the Eucharistic life that we lead, and one that I shall preside over, with paternal love for clergy and laity alike. And as an extension of this Eucharistic life, I am thankful to all those of you who honor our Church and my humble person with your presence at this enthronement ceremony.
I am grateful to the civic authorities who are here together with us – not only from Sweden, but from the other nations comprising this Metropolis: Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. I am also grateful to the diplomatic authorities from Greece and Cyprus and the other 8 countries, who have joined us, as well as for their governments’ continual support of our Ecumenical Patriarchate.
I would like to pledge to all of you that I will make it my priority to work closely with all the local authorities, officials, and constituents to ensure the highest degree of cooperation both internally, within the Metropolis and its parishes, the diverse organizations and associations of the Greek and Cypriot communities, as well as externally, through interdenominational, interfaith and intergovernmental cooperation. Inspired by the historic meeting between His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Pope Francis in Jerusalem last month, I shall always keep open channels of communication with leaders of all faiths, promoting dialogue and kindling love for our fellow man.
As I pledged to His All Holiness, I will begin my ministry by visiting every corner of the four great nations comprising this Holy Metropolis, so I may acquaint myself with the clergy and spiritual flock of our parishes. I also look forward to working very closely, in a spirit of brotherhood, with my fellow canonical Orthodox Bishops in these lands, who together with me, constitute the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Scandinavia. I thank them for their attendance and prayers, and I look forwarding to full cooperation so that we may praise our Trinitarian God in one heart and in one mind, advancing the Orthodox witness to the dioceses under our charge.
I fully intend to establish exemplary cooperation with the institutions and officers of the organized Hellenic Community here in Scandinavia and I will rely on their staunch support for the success of our Metropolis’ initiatives. I ask for everyone’s support so that we may build an unbreakable bond of love and friendship for the greater good of the Church, the Community, and Society-at-large. The door to my office will always be open to all of You, as an extension of our Eucharistic communion that takes place within the sacred walls of our holy churches.
I am well aware of the desire that burns deep in the human heart for progress. Whether we are immigrants who have come here to escape the economic crisis and seek a better tomorrow, permanent residents who have grown roots in the democratic and welcoming embrace of these lands, or converts to the Orthodox faith actively seeking the advancement of our spiritual knowledge, we all share common hopes and dreams. In order to achieve this all-important progress, we must unite our efforts and energies, working together as one, in collaboration with Divine Grace for the glorification of God’s holy name, the edification of His Holy Church, and the progress of our Community. Hand in hand, we can build a brighter tomorrow.
If we are to be successful, we must successfully engage the youth and display particular care for them. They are the leaders of tomorrow and they will be called to continue our hopes and dreams. It is to them that we will entrust our most valued possessions and treasures – our spiritual legacy – and they will write the next chapter in our long and illustrious history. And so I call upon all of them to step forward and join us in our common ministry, actively participating to shape our common vision. With hands outstretched, I beckon you all to join me in this new labor I have been selected to undertake. Working together, we can build our children’s future!
The foundations of the structures we will build together and the apparatuses we will form must lie in Orthodoxy and Hellenism, if they are to withstand the test of time and be of any substance. Not only because these two pillars represent the core of our great legacy and rich past, but also because they represent ecumenical points of reference that will allow us to engage and communicate with the entire world. The Hagia Sophia and the Parthenon are the two lungs with which our Community here in Scandinavia can breathe the life-giving air that carries with it centuries of wisdom and history, invigorating and illuminating the world around us. These reference points, which have attracted the world’s attention from the moment they were built and continue to do so today with the same power, are the cultural capital with which we can invest in our future, enriching our lives and the world around us.
And like the two-headed eagle on the Byzantine standard that looks East and West, so, too, do we look back to our homelands, and also to our lives here in our second home, in these democratic and liberty-loving Scandinavian nations that have embraced us as native sons and daughters. In doing so, we must turn our attention to our brothers and sisters in Greece and Cyprus, who are suffering from the injustices and hardships that accompany the deep economic crisis those countries are facing and lend our spiritual and material support to them abundantly. We must maintain strong ties with these cultural metropolises, in addition to our spiritual home: the venerable Center of Orthodoxy – the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. Concurrently, however, we must also be mindful of the role we have been called to play in our new home here in Scandinavia, as ambassadors of Orthodoxy and Hellenism. Along with the gratitude that we must offer these four nations that have welcomed us and allowed us to practice our faith freely and without prejudice, we must also open-handedly offer the invaluable treasures of our 2,000 year-old Christian faith and tradition.
Unfortunately, the news is replete with reports of modern-day persecution against our Christian brethren living in other parts of the world, where people are not free to confess their faith and freely practice their religion. Sadly, the persecution of Christianity was not limited to the early centuries, but continues today. This is why we should be especially grateful for the freedoms we enjoy, and remember the sacrifices that those less fortunate than us make for our common faith.
Although I was born in Greece and came of age in the United States, from this day forward, I consider Scandinavia to be my new home. Whether Greek or Cypriot, Swedish or Norwegian, Danish or Icelandic, I shall identify equally with all. As full-fledged members of this great society, we must do our very best to contribute to its progress and enrich it with the priceless spiritual and cultural treasures that we bear.
Whether spiritually, through our prayers, holy services, and monastic tradition, or educationally, through the fullness of the Greek language, or culturally, through music, art, dance, and food, we have much to contribute to the world around us. Our millennia-old tradition is vibrant and ecumenical, transcending the narrow geographical boundaries of national borders, and awaits to be shared.
At its very core, the Church is a Eucharistic Supper. At this gathering, the presbyter blesses and offers the Eucharistic prayer, as Christ Himself did at the head of the Last Supper. According to the New Testament, the head of every local Church is the Bishop, who stands “εἰςτῦπονκαὶτόπον” (in place and as a type) of Christ” and oversees all the spiritual gatherings of the faithful known as parishes, shepherding and gathering their union as a Eucharistic body. The role of the Bishop is that of a father and older brother, whose duty it is to support his family. It is this role that I pledge to undertake for clergy and laity alike, offering my deepest love in Christ to all of you – the members of my new family.
On your end, I ask that you support my ministry through your constant participation. I want you to bombard me with your ideas, bring me proposals non-stop, and share your thoughts with me on how to build upon all the sectors of our Holy Metropolis. Let us remember the words of St. John Chrysostom: ”one man burning with zeal is enough to restore an entire city.” If each of you brings this zeal to our efforts, there is no telling what we can accomplish. Like the ancient Athenians Thucydides describes in his history, I call upon you to become pioneers of both thought and action. Like them, I ask you to consider your true self in your minds and hearts, as most ”truly your own when employed in the service” of your faith and community. When you do not carry out an intention to which you have formed, consider that you have sustained a personal bereavement, and when an enterprise succeeds, believe that you have gained only a mere installment of what is to come. And if by chance you fail, conceive new hopes and so fill up the void. For if you lose not a moment in the execution of an idea, to hope is to have. And like those ancient Athenians, ”deem the quiet of inaction to be as disagreeable as the most tiresome business,” and remember the ancient Greek saying, ”οὐκἱστάθμεθα, πορευόμεθαγάρ,” which translates to ”we do not stand still, for we are constantly progressing.”
Among the challenges that lay ahead for us, I place special importance on the following:
1) Expansion and growth of our parishes and schools. We must strive to establish, restore, and renew parish communities wherever we can to serve the spiritual and educational needs of the people. Educating our children is critical to our ministry. We need to do everything we can to pass on our timeless traditions and educate children of all ages – starting from pre-school all the way to the university level. Remember the words of St. Cosmas the Aetolian, that ”it is better to have a Greek school in your village than a spring or a river.” We must strive to create programs that will serve the needs of the faithful of all ages, from pre-school programs, to university chairs, to senior centers.
2) The continuation of our monastic tradition. The formation of monastic centers within the Metropolis where monastics can engage in asceticism and the faithful can seek spiritual renewal will enhance the Orthodox witness in our Metropolis.
3) Missionary work. Our Metropolis must become a center of missionary activity from where the good news of the Gospel can spread out into every direction, and from where we may share our Christian traditions and ideals with our fellow citizens. In an age where materialism, consumerism, and nihilism has led many members of the ”civilized” world into despair and to espouse uncivilized acts of brutality and hatred, we must advance the salvific alternative of Orthodoxy and its philokalic love of beauty: both in our fellow man – the easiest place in which to encounter God – and in our environment.
4) Philanthropy. Whether it is offering help to the needy here locally, supporting economic migrants, or helping the people in our native lands and elsewhere in the world where man-made and natural disasters strike, our Metropolis must utilize its resources to make its presence felt and make an active difference in the lives of the people.
There is much work to do in the Lord’s vineyard here in the Northern Lands, but the wine we shall produce will be most sweet. While there may be some people who, influenced by various geopolitical theories and political allegiances, consider Eastern Orthodoxy “deeply conservative” and a threat to the Western ideals, the truth is that it is inconceivable to imagine Europe without the historic union of Christianity and Hellenism, otherwise known as Ρωμιοσύνη or Romanity.
In today’s Europe, which is facing its own unique challenges – economic, cultural, and political – and where a great debate is happening over the future of the unified European structure, the worldview and legacy of Romanity has much to offer. The multilingual, multinational society that existed within the Roman ecumene seems much more in line with Western ideals than the nationalism and exceptionalism and isolationism that were produced outside of the Orthodox tradition.
In today’s post-modern era where many changes and shifts in norms, customs, and social standards are taking place at shocking speeds, the stability, tradition, teachings, and wisdom of the Orthodox tradition has much to offer a world with people who increasingly feel marginalized and trapped in the dead-ends of a materialistic society that lacks the spiritual nourishment that the soul craves.
For me, it is a privilege to be among you today and be welcomed with such love. I join my new family today and enter into my new spiritual home with great expectations and fully conscious of the awesome responsibility that I am undertaking. With paternal joy, I embrace you all and pledge myself to serving you and the needs of our Metropolis, together with the Great Mother Church of Christ, our Ecumenical Patriarchate.
May Christ our Lord, Who turned fishermen into the Holy Apostles who drew the entire Ecumene towards Him through the Grace of the Holy Spirit, illuminate and bless you and your families always.