On such days, it was 24 years ago when the Greek Community of Australia and the Orthodox world of the country was deeply excited and moved for welcoming Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
It was the first visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Antipodes since he took the helm of the Mother Church, and it was the first time that the Orthodox Christians of Australia welcomed the Primate of Orthodoxy.
For this reason, it has rightly been characterized as a historic visit and has been etched on the memories of the Diaspora Greeks, especially those who were fortunate enough to participate in the magnificent events in honor of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Ecumenical Patriarch’s first stop was the city of Perth, in Western Australia, on November 7, 1996.
In the following days, accompanied by the late Archbishop of Australia, Stylianos, he went to every corner of the country, where the heart of Orthodoxy was beating, met the flock of the second largest diocese of the Ecumenical Throne, visited schools, social institutions and of the Holy Archdiocese, while he had a series of contacts with representatives of the political authorities of Australia, most importantly his meeting with the then Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, who had hosted a luncheon in his honor of and had praised the work and Ecumenical Patriarch’s personality. During his 20-day stay in Australia, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology by Flinders University in Adelaide, and was presented with the Golden Key of the South Austrian capital.
The highlight of this historic visit was the Divine Liturgy performed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the crowded Sydney Entertainment Center on November 24, 1996.
The following video, produced by the ABC television station which had covered the tour of the Ecumenical Patriarch, testifies to the indescribable atmosphere during the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy, and to the impressive participation of the Diaspora Greeks with young people of that time being at the forefront.
Finally, it is noted that, when he was about to leave, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke of a “blessed experience” during his stay in Antipodes, while expressing gratitude to those who worked to prepare for the visit, and to thousands of believers who attended the worship, social and other events that took place during the three-week tour.
“The faithful have exceeded themselves and exceeded all our expectations,” he said, expressing deep emotion for the love and respect he received and for the progress and development of the local Church.