Your Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain,
Beloved Clergy and Devout Community Leaders,
We open with the words of the Prophet and Psalmist David, who assures us “how beautiful and delightful it is for us to be together as brothers” in the Lord!
We would first of all like to tell you how deeply proud and paternal we are feeling on this occasion. Because, while the visit of your spiritual father and Ecumenical Patriarch is an occasion for celebration on the one hundredth anniversary of your blessed Archdiocese, it is more so for us an opportunity to look into the eyes and to greet personally all of you as the servants in the Lord’s vineyard, as the ones who translate and incarnate all of the theology and tradition of our Church on the level of the parishes and in the language of the people. This means that – deep in our heart – we recognize that, beyond all of the ceremonies and festivities during this historic visit, our time with you is truly special and sacred. And we are sincerely grateful that His Eminence has organized this splendid evening with you and for you.
As you know, our saintly predecessor on the Throne of Constantinople, St. John Chrysostom, observed that while you are still on earth, you are actually standing in heaven. Such is the miracle and wonder, the dignity and office of the priesthood. Like another Prophet Elijah, you bring down from heaven the fire of the Holy Spirit so that everyone’s soul may be illumined and redeemed. Of course, as we repeat during each Divine Liturgy: “No one is worthy to approach, draw near, or minister to the King of Glory . . . But because of His ineffable and immeasurable love for humankind . . . He looks down upon us as His sinful and unworthy servants.”
So it is a pleasure and a privilege for us to meet those in each of our Eparchies who serve the people of God at the altar of the church. Because that is where all of us – those of us at the Phanar in Istanbul, and those of you in each and every parish as well as each and every ministry of this Archdiocese in the United Kingdom – are united in and as the Body of Christ. And, as again we say in the Divine Eucharist, wherever “the Lamb of God is separated and distributed, eaten but never consumed, then all those who partake are sanctified.”
We embrace each and every one of you, dearest Clergy and Ministers, beloved Presbyters and Deacons. We value and respect your service and your sacrifice. And we promise you that you are always remembered and included at the Holy Prothesis as well as each time that we commemorate “every Orthodox episcopate, the honorable priesthood and the diaconate in Christ.” We especially pray for the challenges that you and your communities face during these difficult times.
The entire world is only just emerging from the global pandemic that threatened and took so many lives, while at the same time revealing the generosity and dedication of doctors and carers. And today, the unjustifiable attack by Russia on Ukraine has resulted in fratricide and plunged the entire world into insecurity. We appeal to you to pray constantly and fervently for an end to this war, and that the leaders of the Russian Federation and Moscow Patriarchate may bring an end to this wrongdoing so that God’s peace may prevail.
Dear friends, may God abundantly bless and reward, with His infinite grace and mercy, both you and your families. We want you to know that we look forward to welcoming you at the Phanar, along with your families, friends and parishioners.