By Catherine Tsounis
“The Power of the Saints and Martyrs have saved Christianity ,” said His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, in his historic speech before over five hundred persons, Friday evening, December 5th,2014 at the Feast Day Vespersos St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Flushing, New York. There was standing room only. “During the WWII Occupation of Greece, persons believed in Panagia and the saints. Cyprus is living a drama, with part of the island called the Katehomena (Occupied by foreign power) and thousands of refugees in their own country. This is chaos. Persons are living a difficult struggle each day. Cypriot leaders are asking for help from God. Ferocious Islamists are wiping out the ancient centers of Christianity in the Middle East from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and countries of North Africa. This is a terrible catastrophe with new martyrs each day. The Garner case is causing a terrible crisis in New York City and the cities of America. We need help from Jesus Christ, St. Nicholas, the Saints.”
A reception followed in Sarantakos Hall hosted by the PTA’s of William Spyropoulos Day School and the “Stephen and Areti Cherpelis” Greek School.
Prominent persons who attended included: Ms Andri Anastasiades, First Lady of the Republic of Cyprus and spouse of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades: Consul General of Cyprus Mr. Vasilis Philippou and Mrs. Philippou, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and others. The real honored guests are the parishioners of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church of Flushing. All classes united to create a magnificent religious and education center. Their dedicated effort contributed in the greatness of Hellenism in New York City and the United States of America.
“Saints such as St. Seraphim were roasted on a spit like a lamb during the Tourkocratia (Ottoman Empire),”continued the Archbishop. “St. Nicholas lived during the time of St. Constantine (Constantine the Great). He dedicated himself night and day to his ministry. These are the saints who lived in different time periods and created Christianity. St. Nicholas lived during the 4th century who we remember 1700 years later. This remembrance makes him a live presence in our lives. St. Nicholas continues to be with us. Maritime workers pray to him. In war and illness all believe in St. Nicholas.”
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas, “Nikolaos of Myra, was the Greek Bishop of Myra (Demre in modern Turkey). Because of the many Miracles he is known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him…thus became the model for Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants…”
His Eminence explained” nothing remains of St. Nicholas Church in Manhattan after 9/11. The strength of God and St. Nicholas are bringing about a rebirth. God and saints are winning. We will build an American center of religious worship. St. Nicholas, who lived 1700 years ago, is present today as a fighter for us. Our faith in saints assists persons in persevering in a positive way. I would like to thank Father Paul Palesty; Father Rev. Presbyter Joakim Valasiades, Father Aristidis Garinis and the clergy of various churches, the choir and canters that came tonight to participate in the liturgy. We have tonight the young scouts who are participating in the church service. You must stay in our church. When you become adults, you must keep our faith strong.”
The First Lady of Cyprus Mrs. Ms. Andri Anastasiades thanked His Eminence “for assisting in the creation of a College Scholarship Fund in Cyprus to aid students acquire a higher education who lack economic means.You are lucky to have such a unique religious leader.” On September 18, 1999, Archbishop Demetrios was enthroned as Primate of the Greek Orthodox Ar5chdiocese of America, in a time of turmoil. He has brought unity and overseen an expansion and prosperity of the Greek Orthodox Church across the country.
Rev. Protopresbyter Paul Palesty said “we are honored to have His Eminence. His sympathy for Cyprus and the Patriachate has touched everyone’s heart. The First Lady of Cyprus, Mrs. Anastasiades is familiar with our parish. We welcome her with warmth.” The topic of conversation was Pope Francis of the Catholic Church asking Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to bless him on November 30, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey.
In a personal interview at the Vespers, Alexander Pritsos, Archon Hieromnimon ((The Grand Overseer), Sergeant at Arms of the Patriarchal Advance, explained he escorted Pope Francis of Rome to Patriarch Bartholomew. “Not only did Pope Francis ask Patriarch Bartholomew to bless him, but bowed and asked Patriarch Bartholomew to bless his church.” In my opinion, Pope Francis bowing to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew wrote HISTORY. The perspective of the Eastern Greek Orthodox to Papal Primacy can be read at https://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8523.
According to https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/30/pope-francis-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-_n_6243414.html, “Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians demanded an end to the persecution of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq on Sunday and called for dialogue with Muslims, capping Francis’ three-day visit to Turkey with a strong show of Christian unity. Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I issued a joint declaration urging leaders in the region to intensify help to victims of the Islamic State group, and especially to allow Christians who have had a presence in the region for 2,000 years to remain on their native lands. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.” This subject was explained in His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios’ Vespers’ sermon on December 5th.
Journalists Nicole Winfield and Susan Frasier in outstanding reporting wrote “Francis, who represents the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church, and Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, called for “constructive dialogue” with Islam “based on mutual respect and friendship.” “Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war… Bartholomew, for his part, noted that Christians are being persecuted across the Mideast regardless of their particular confession. The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which church their victims belong to,” he said. “The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrs,” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/30/pope-francis-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-_n_6243414.html.
Archbishop Demetrios spoke in words, issues that are touching the hearts of all. The Clergy of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at 196-10 Northern Blvd., Flushing are Rev. Protopresbyter Paul C., Palesty Rev. Presbyter Aristidis Garinis and Rev. Presbyter Joakim Valasiadis. The Parish Council include: Andrew Tsiolas – President;
James Rosvoglou– 1st Vice President; Larry Hotzoglou– 2nd Vice President;
Bill Kakoullis – Secretary; Constantine Vases – Treasurer; Michael Haralambous – Assistant Treasurer; Parish Council Members, George Douveas, Steve Fegos, Christopher Fillos, Maria Gatanas, Soteris Georgiou, Nicholas Karacostas,
Florence Koulouris, Manny Kratsios, Christos Nicolaou, Christina Siroky,
Harris Stathopoulos, Christopher Triantafillou, Victoria Tsadilas, Tasos Tzallas
and Nicholas Zolotas. All information was copied from https://www.stnicholasflushing.org.
School principals are Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Principal of the William Spyropoulos Day School Principal and George Kanellopoulos of the Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School. View https://www.stnicholasflushing.org/schools.htm.
Photo: Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America