Greeting Addressed to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
by His Eminence Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia
at the Patriarchal Horostasia at the Hallgríms Church
Reykjavik, October 15, 2017
Your All-Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch,
Members of the Clergy,
Honorable Government of Iceland and State Officials,
Members of the World Council of Churches,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Overcome with emotions of joy and gratitude over Your presence here today at the Hallgríms Church, I greet You on behalf of the Holy Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia and all your Orthodox Christian spiritual sons and daughters who reside in these northern lands. This trip is historic, in that it marks Your All Holiness’ first ever visit to Iceland as Ecumenical Patriarch.
This auspicious occasion represents a defining moment in the life of our local Church – an eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as for the proud people of Iceland.
I give thanks to God for this opportunity to allow a people who have been at the forefront of developments in the 21st century to meet the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, as well as a leading voice and living inspiration regarding important world issues of our time such as peace, dialogue, and the preservation of the environment.
I express my deepest appreciation to His Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former President of Iceland and current Chairman of the Arctic Circle International Conference, for inviting You to serve as the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Arctic Circle Assembly.
In this way, not only will our esteemed host offer heads of state and government, ministers, parliament members, officials, experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, indigenous representatives, environmentalists, students, activists and others from the growing international community of partners and participants the opportunity to meet and hear the profound words of an internationally-acclaimed environmental champion, who, since the early days of his illustrious 26-year Patriarchal leadership, has become known worldwide affectionately as “the green patriarch,” but also enable people from all around this great nation, as well as visitors, the opportunity to receive the blessings of Orthodoxy’s first-among-equals.
In addition, I would also like to thank the government of Iceland and state officials, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, for their hospitality and cooperation in making this trip possible, the World Council of Churches for their ever-present support and love, and the local representatives of the Russian and other Orthodox Churches for their presence here today, their brotherly love in tending to the spiritual needs of the Orthodox Christian flock in Iceland, and the filial love in which they have embraced His All Holiness’ visit here.
Your All-Holiness, your historic visit marks - in the most seminal and substantial manner – the beginning of a close new collaboration between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Icelandic society, including all the Christian denominations represented here.
The intense desire to ensure that the Holy Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia has a stronger and more regular presence here, will remain a lasting legacy of Your arrival here and the thirst displayed by the local populace and the leading members of this society to welcome into their hearts and enter into dialogue with the inspirational occupant of worldwide Orthodoxy’s senior see, will serve as the impetus to see this legacy bear rich fruit.
This desire could have no more appropriate form than the establishment of the Metropolis’ first Greek Orthodox parish in Iceland, to serve as a spiritual lighthouse for this northern eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, guiding all those who weather life’s stormy seas with the light of the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople. Naturally, it is only fitting and right that this parish be named after St. Bartholomew, one of the 12 Apostles, who will serve as its patron and as a divine intermediary on behalf of this blessed land and its people.
We are currently in the process of identifying a church that is able to house the new parish-to-be, and offer the opportunity for the Divine Liturgy and Holy Sacraments to be celebrated there by members of the Metropolis clergy and visiting clergy, who will make regular periodic visits to serve the spiritual needs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s flock in Iceland and build up our spiritual ministry here.
I would like to ask You, Your All-Holiness, to provide us with Your blessings to embark upon this spiritual journey. I would also like to thank all the religious and civic leaders of Iceland for the inestimable help and support they have offered us so far and I am confident that they will continue offering us their prayers and love, so that we may work towards the materialization of this long-awaited spiritual goal.
Finally, Your All-Holiness, please allow me to offer You this blessing cross as a small gesture of the true gratitude and thankfulness that wells from deep within my heart and soul for Your inspirational presence among us here today. You may use it to bless the four corners of the world and entreat our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to sanctify the efforts of all those who work for the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, as Your predecessor and Father among the Saints, John Chrysostom, writes in the Divine Liturgy he composed.
As we prepare to conclude this historic trip, I ask Your All Holiness for your continued prayers and blessings for the citizens of this land, our most gracious hosts, and the missionary Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia, which the grace of God has deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual delight of Your presence here among us for the last four days. AMEN!