The National Herald, a weekly Greek-American publication, recently reported on “The Orthodox Church Perseveres, Triumphs over Terror” written by Theodore G. Karakostas, in its December 5-11, 2015 issue. The article can be read below.
The Orthodox Church Perseveres, Triumphs over Terror
by Theodore G. Karakostas
The most holy day of Orthodoxy is Holy Pascha and the victory of Jesus Christ over death through his most glorious resurrection. The Christian faith brings with it assurances of the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for those who repent their sins and embrace faith in Christ. The Orthodox Church is the antithesis of false beliefs and all secular ideologies. It has triumphed throughout the course of history against all adversaries. The quote from Saint Paul comes to mind “O Death where is your Sting” (Corinthians 15:55).
There is unfortunately in some forums a tendency to disrespect the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There are those who argue that the Great Church of Constantinople has lost most of its flock. The fact remains that the Patriarchate bears witness to the power and victory of the Cross through its enduring presence in the City of Constantine despite the brutal history of the twentieth century and the genocide that saw the physical ex- termination of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christian populations in Anatolia.
The Patriarchate has become a symbol for Orthodoxy by attracting the respect of the international community. Indeed, the Holy and Great Church of Christ receives Ambassadors and heads of State at the Phanar while His All Holiness Bartholomew I is received by foreign heads of state and Western religious leaders on trips abroad. This is no small achievement considering how isolated and cut off the Church of Constantinople was from the world only decades ago.
In 2010, the patriarch served the Divine Liturgy in the historic Monastery of Panagia Soumela in Trebezond for the first time since the extermination of the Pontian Greeks in 1923. The liturgy, which is now served annually on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos at the Monastery is a sign of renewal within the Great Church. Bartholomew has been joined at this annual liturgy by Bishops from Orthodox Churches in Greece, Albania, and Russia. In addition, the Russian Church has sent Bishops to join His All Holiness at Worship Services in the historic Churches of Cappadocia.
His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion Alfayev, Secretary of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow stated in June 2010 while participating in the liturgy at Cappadocia, “we were persecuted for our faith for seventy years of godless power in Russia. I cordially greet all whose predecessors lived in this land and those who have come here to honor their memory”, and he urged Greeks to “give support to your Patriarch who comes here every year to celebrate in the Churches of this holy land.”
When he was in Constantinople in December, 2012, he declared, “Orthodox Christians have lived in this land for many centuries, in spite of all tragic events in history, and have firmly maintained Orthodox faith” and “we admire the courage of those Christians who have stayed here to keep their faith and pass it to their descendants.” One must keep in mind the horrific martyrdom that the Church of Constantinople has undergone in the twentieth century from the slaughter at Smyrna in 1922 to the horrific pogroms in Constantinople in 1955.
If the Church lost most of its flock, it was because its Greek Orthodox faithful were martyred for their faith or forced to flee. As such, The Church bears witness and speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is the Church that was served faithfully by Clerics such as the Saint Metropolitan Chrysostom of Smyrna, who refused to leave his flock behind in 1922 and was slaughtered in service to Jesus Christ, as were several other Bishops and priests. In 1955, the 90 year old priest Chrysanthos Mannas was doused with gasoline and set on fire during the anti-Greek Orthodox pogroms.
The international interest in the Patriarchate from Western media and governments is a sign of increasing visibility for Orthodoxy in the West. The increasing visibility of the Patriarchate is a victory for Christianity in defiance of evil. Saint Constantine the Great who would go on to found the City of Constantinople received the message before going to battle in 312 AD and saw the Sun in the form of a Cross that declared, “With This Sign Conquer.”
This is the task of the Church of Constantinople. The late Serbian Saint Justin Popovich wrote, “I bow in reverence before the age old achievements of the Great Church of Constantinople, and before her present cross, which is neither small nor easy, which according to the nature of things, is the cross of the entire Church, for as, the Apostle says, ‘when one member suffers, the whole member suffers.’
“Moreover I acknowledge the canonical rank and first place in honor of Constantinople among the local Orthodox Churches, which are equal in honor and rights.”
For the last two decades, Bartholomew has been targeted for assassination and the Patriarchate itself has been bombed. Despite this, the Patriarchate continues to demonstrate the power of Christian faith and resistance against terror.