Guided by his experiences from Limassol, Oxford, St. Sophronius of Essex, the late Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus and the diocese of Kenya, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan of Nairobi Makarios, traveled the participants of the event on a life course intertwined with ecclesiastical testimony, fellowship, and interactive relationship with every otherness of the host.
The event, organized by the Center for Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies (CEMES) on Sunday, December 29, took place in Thessaloniki, at the “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou Amphitheater” at St. Theodora Monastery.
He was welcomed by the Board of Directors of CEMES, the President in Honour, Emer. Prof. Petros Vassiliadis and the Secretary General, Mr. Nikos Kosmidis. Prof. Vassiliadis also conveyed the greeting of the absent President, Emer. Prof. Nikolaos Zacharopoulos and presented the biographical details of the honored person, noting the decision of the Board of Directors. to honor His Eminence as an Honorary member of CEMES. For his part, Mr Kosmidis briefly outlined the character of the Center, the intergenerational dimension of its work, and the interest of its members in helping to strengthen Orthodox relationships in an admittedly crucial historical period for its unity and common witness of the Orthodox Church in the modern world.
During his talk on “Experiences from Orthodox Mission in Africa and Ecumenical Dialogue at the World Council of Churches”, His Eminence shared with the audience moments from his personal story, presenting the people who made a decisive contribution to making it happen his doctoral studies – despite the financial difficulties – at the University of Oxford.
He then spoke extensively about how he was found to shepherd the growing community of the Kenyan Orthodox Church, which include not only believers from traditional Orthodox countries, but mainly people who came to know Orthodoxy through her missionary activity. Today, the flock of the Metropolitan of Kenya also includes members of local African tribes, such as the Massai tribe. With particular interest, the participants listened to Metr. Makarios’ personal testimony of the trust and understanding relationships he developed with local tribes even through incidents reminiscent of the stories of the Church of the early Christian centuries.
Metr. Makarios, at the request of the members of CEMES, also referred to the many years of experience gained through his participation as a representative, initially of the Church of Cyprus, and subsequently of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, in the World Council of Churches and in inter-Christian, interfaith and intercultural dialogue in general. He emphasized the fact that those who question the ecumenical dialogue are – willfully – ignorant of the experience, the needs and the serious and sometimes extraordinary challenges that the Orthodox Church faces in countries where missionary work is being conducted. The same view was expressed by His Eminence. Metropolitan of Vryoula Panteleimon, founding member of the Center,
In response to a related question, Metropolitan of Kenya admitted that the need for a common understanding of the context of Orthodox relationships with Christians in other churches and confessions, as well as the faithful of other religious traditions, remains alive on an inter-orthodox level.
Both the venerable speaker and CEMES’ President in Honour, as well as the founding member of the Center, Mr. Xenophon Karapas, mentioned the legacy left by the late of blessed memory Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou. A legacy that is summed up in the ecumenical and at the same time missionary dimension of the Orthodox Church, always in the context of love and testimony of the truth to all fellow human beings.
The Metropolitan of Kenya stressed that this was also the attitude of the Elder Sophronius Sakharov, founder of the monastic community of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England. He remembered the times when he saw fhe now St. Sophronius inadvertently opening his arms not only to heterodox Christians, but also to the faithful of other religions, and even to members of no Christian denomination, who were visiting the Monastery, each for different reasons.
It should be noted that a delegation of the Holy Diocese of Neapolis and Stavroupoli “Lighthouse of the World” (Φάρος του κόσμου) also participated in the event. The children of the “Lighthouse” sang in their own way the New Year’s carols