Your Eminence, Your Grace, Reverend Fathers, Mr. Vice-President and members of the Metropolitan Council, Presidents and members of the Greek-Orthodox Communities, Archons of the Patriarchate, Mrs. President and members of the Philoptochos Society,
It is a great pleasure for me to attend the official dinner of the 29th Clergy Laity Assembly of our Holy Metropolis and, on this occasion, please allow me to extend my best wishes for joy, health and progress.
It is, indeed, a particular pleasure, as I am given the opportunity to communicate with all of you and to get better acquainted with the important work of the Holy Metropolis.
You are all part of Hellenism and even though you live far away from Greece, you do keep your ancestral homeland close to your thoughts and hearts. You are also a vibrant Community, in which Hellenism creates, progresses, as well as honors and serves its orthodox faith; a Community, which teaches and learns its language, its history and its culture.
However, before I elaborate on the subject of today’s gathering, and given the fact that today marks the 564th anniversary since the fall of Constantinople, I believe that it would be appropriate to pay tribute to the last defenders of the “Queen of Cities” and to the last brave emperor of Byzantium, Constantinos Palaiologos, who will always teach us the exemplary devotion to the highest value, our love for the homeland. His well known response to Muhammad - “to give you the city is neither my issue, nor of those who live in it. Because it is everyone’s opinion that we are all willing to die and we will not pity our lives”- portrays the last emperor as the absolute advocate of the devotion of Greeks to their ideals.
Back then, even though, the over a thousand year old Byzantine Roman Empire collapsed, the nation survived. The outstanding byzantinologist, Steven Ranciman, noted: “for as long as the Church was surviving, the nation could not die”. And that is plausible, considering that the Church saved the orthodox faith. The Church undertook the education and cultivated the language. It protected and saved the national consciousness.
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
As you all know, the Holy Metropolis of Toronto, under the leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios, has to present a long tradition of significant and multifaceted service, while striving “in love and devotion of the nation” for the progress of Hellenism in Canada. Thanks to this, Canadians of Greek descent, feel proud of their spiritual and cultural roots.
From the very beginning, the main concern of the Holy Metropolis was to create strong bonds with the homeland, as well as to strengthen the faith, the Greek language and the knowledge of history and to pass it on from one generation to another.
As is well known, religion and language are two primary elements which define the Greek identity of Hellenism Abroad and constitute a strong link with the Metropolitan Centre. Besides, the meaning of the Greek word “ομογενής”, used for the Greeks living abroad, indicates the unbreakable bond of origin and the bond of the same race, not just on a formal level of rights and obligations, but as a deeper relationship of participation in the same Race (Γένος) and the voluntary acceptance of the timeless values of Hellenism.
In this context, the importance of preserving the orthodox faith and the devotion to tradition – for which our Church is striving – is obvious and this comprises all their facets: the liturgical form of worship, the byzantine music, the hymnography, the literature, the architecture and woodcarving, as well as the byzantine and post-byzantine iconography.
Moreover, the importance of knowledge and cultivation of the Greek language and culture is equally obvious. It should be noted that even today, civilization is in the hands of those nations which are descendants or students of Greeks and heirs of the Greek spirit. There is no aspect of western civilized life, which doesn’t have its origins in the Greek Antiquity and in the Greek Byzantium. This counts for politics, education, literature, sciences and arts. Besides, as many European thinkers have pointed out, there are three pillars on which the European culture was founded: the Greek classical literature, the byzantine-roman law, and the Christian faith and tradition.
More particularly, as far as the importance of our language is concerned, it should be noted that the Greek language was the first universal language, the language of the Holy Gospel, the language of transaction; a language with a high communicational prestige, which reinforced its weight and universality. Indeed, the Greek language is the language of civilization, a language which exercised its influence on many other European languages, especially on the English and French.
Thirty-five centuries of continuous written tradition and at least forty centuries of oral tradition, have provided Greek with an early cultivation and have made it the only language in the world to be spoken uninterruptedly from the Antiquity by the same people, the Greeks, in the same geographical area, Greece, and with the same basic grammatical and syntactical structure, inherited through the centuries. This is the language you are being asked to cultivate in your Greek – Orthodox Communities and Greek Schools. Indeed, praise is owed to those who work for the progress of the Greek education in Canada, as well as for the moral education of the youth, especially taking into consideration that the latter is the future of Hellenism here.
Since we are talking about education, I would like to refer to the important mission of the Theological Academy, whose existence has opened a new dimension and perspective to the work of the Orthodox Metropolis Toronto – Canada. A new generation of clerics of Greek descent has been educated there and subsequently dispatched to the various parishes, where they serve successfully. It is a generation which has been given the possibility for spiritual cultivation and education, while being provided with the necessary tools in order to further study and explore Greek education and then be able to serve, with devotion and passion, the Canadians of Greek descent and especially Greek children.
It would be an oversight not to mention, at least briefly, also all those who struggle and work hard for the progress of our «Ομογένεια» and the promotion of the work of the Holy Metropolis: His Grace Bishop Christophoros, the Presbyters and Deacons, the Vice-President and members of the Metropolitan Council, the President and members of the Board of Directors of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the professors and teachers of the various Greek schools, the Archons of the Patriarchate, the employees at the Social Services of the Metropolis, as well as the President and members of Philoptochos Society. At this point, I would like to mention the importance of the latter which, as we all know, constitutes an exceptionally dynamic organization and which is active in so many fields, ranging from helping the poor, prisoners and ailing fellow citizens, to supporting the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Theological Academy.
Last, but not least, I would like to refer to the work of the Holy Monasteries of the Virgin Mary of Consolation and of Patrokosmas, for which His Eminence, shows a particular affection, and which are important guardians of our religious and national tradition. I would also like to underline their dedication to the preservation of the Christian virtues and to the Greek Orthodox traditions, that for more than twenty centuries now have been feeding and guiding each and every faithful.
You form a permanent bridge of communication and cooperation between Greece and Canada. You are walking on our side, wherever you are – preachers of the Greek values and ideas, apostles of philhellenism in this country – and the conviction that your thoughts and actions are always directed in support of Greece, do reinforce us, Greeks of the homeland, during these difficult times.
As you know, Greeks Abroad constitute a huge national asset with priceless contribution to our country’s historical evolution. It is exactly this part of Hellenism, which makes us proud and encourages to see the future with optimism. You, the Greeks of Canada, love your Motherland and care about the course of all our issues of national importance. In addition you participate actively in and support initiatives of solidarity, philanthropic organizations and foundations, in the cities and regions of your origin. You are willing to dedicate your time, and offer your skills and experience in favor of our Mother Country.
It is, indeed, encouraging that you contribute also in this way to the ongoing efforts of relieving our fellow citizens from the adverse effects of this crisis.
It is obvious that any further substantial contribution to our Mother Country, as it has happened before, on many occasions, during difficult times in our history, will not only contribute effectively to the efforts for our country’s restoration and the relief of our compatriots, but also to the efforts of further enhancing the links between you and the Metropolitan Centre.
All the above certainly indicate the measure by which Hellenism can be evaluated and underline the importance of the valuable services of the Greeks Abroad, and of course of the Greeks of Canada, within their organized structures, as well as on an individual basis. You have dedicated, and continue to do so, your intellectual and material strengths in favor of your fellow citizens.
During this critical period, we need to address efficiently the current challenges, to take advantage of every available power factor and to strive together towards the fulfillment of our common national goals. It is a historic truth, that as a nation we have achieved great and important things, when we were united.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate again, His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto – Canada, whose continuous efforts have yielded today’s very fruitful results. Furthermore, I would like to congratulate again all of you who worked with zeal towards the realization and success of this Assembly to the benefit of the Church, of Hellenism and of our Mother Country.