ADDRESS AT THE CLOSING CEREMONY OF THE 43rd CLERGY LAITY CONGRESS OF THE GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA
(Nashville, Tennessee July 7, 2016)
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America,
Your Eminences Holy Hierarchs
Beloved Presbyters and Deacons
Your Excellency Haris Lalacos Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic
Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Leadership of the Philoptochos Society
Delegates of the Parish Church Councils
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank the Almighty God Who deemed me worthy to participate in such an important event of the Holy Archdiocese of America, the 43rd Clergy-Laity Congress, and provided the opportunity to have fellowship with all of you, my highly-respected and beloved Sisters and Brothers, from last Saturday until today. It is a particular blessing to be here in Nashville, the «Athens of the South,» and to be part of the historic 85-year anniversary of the renown National Philoptochos Society. For this great joy, but also for the honor bestowed upon me of representing our Mother Church in this highest event of your local Church, along with His Eminence and very dear brother, Metropolitan of Kydonia and Apocoronos Damaskinos, I feel deeply grateful to the most venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate and to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. I also wish to thank all of you, for your very gracious welcome and warm «Southern» hospitality.
It is my utmost honor to convey to you once more the paternal wishes and blessings of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Who takes pride in the Archdiocese of America, which is the Patriarchate’s largest and most important Eparchy. Furthermore, at every opportunity, our Ecumenical Patriarch speaks in glowing terms of your venerable Primate, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America and of all of you, the dear Children of the Mother Church, for the spiritual progress and honor you have obtained through your hard work within the beloved–but challenging–American society.
I must admit that for me, personally, this Congress was a very important and meaningful learning process, which will prove greatly helpful in my humble missionary diakonia in Korea.
During the past few days, as we attended the various workshop sessions and forums, we admired the wide range of activities and programs carried out under the enlightened guidance of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America and by all the Metropolitans of the Archdiocese of America.
But, equally important, in my humble opinion, was the communication and spiritual unity of the participants of the Congress. For me it was really a very touching reunion with many friends and brothers after so many years, and it was a great joy to see my old colleagues from Hellenic College and Holy Cross, now being mature priests with their wonderful families. Glory be to God for His great blessing to His Church in America! I wish and I pray that He will bless their pastoral ministry and also their families.
At this point I would like to express, once more, my gratitude to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios for his long support and diverse help since my graduate studies in Holy Cross School of Theology to this day. I would also like to thank His Eminence Nicholas, Metropolitan of Detroit for his cordial reception and hospitality. Finally, I would like to express my sincere congratulations to all those who toiled for the wonderful organization and perfect execution of all aspects of the 43rd Clergy Laity Congress.
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Now, my beloved, please allow me to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts that I have kept in my heart for over seventeen years.
When the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, elected His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios in 1999 as your Prelate, all of us who love your Church, praised and glorified our Triune God; for indeed, the greatest gift of God bestowed to His Church in America in this very difficult, critical and changing era, is Archbishop Demetrios. I dare say that it is nearly impossible to find, across the worldwide Orthodox Church, a Prelate of his caliber. In him we see a respectable, good shepherd, a true father of the Church, who embodies the genuine ecclesiastical ethos and mindset.
During the years of my graduate studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, I worked with Professor Kathleen McVey, who had previously been a colleague of His Eminence at Harvard Divinity School. When we first met, due to my Greek origin, she asked me if I knew «Professor Demetrios Trakatelis.» After hearing my affirmative reply, she looked straight at me and said with absolute conviction, «He is a really wise and holy man». To this, I believe, we can all say, «indeed, he is!»
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My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, I am neither skillful nor competent enough to speak about His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and his multifarious work in this Holy Archdiocese. Future historians will do that. I am sure, however, that, in addition to the published accounts, God will record his ministry «in the Book of Life.»
Before leaving the podium, on which you so kindly allowed me to stand before you, I want simply to ask everyone for two things: First, please let us all pray to God to keep Archbishop Demetrios Geron of America «safe and honorable, in health, and long-lived»; and second, let us pay close attention to His Eminence’s example (cf. 1 Pet 2:21), since he teaches us continuously with his holy life and his God-loving way of leading the faithful. By doing so, we will surely be «the Voice of Christ in a Changing World», as you have so aptly adopted as the central theme of this 43rd Congress.
Thank you all so very much.
+ Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea