Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, the only non-Greek Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church, speaks of his life, his relationship with the Greek believers in Belgium, and the planned visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Benelux.
According to the newspaper “Ethnos”, he is the first non-Greek Metropolitan in the province of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Europe, the first to become a member of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, although not of Greek origin.
Metropolitan Athenagoras is the head of the 39 Orthodox parishes in Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux).
He speaks fluently Greek since he is the head and permanent representative of all the Orthodox believers in the Belgian and Dutch State, as well as in the Duchy of Luxembourg.
“I feel Greek,” says Metropolitan Athenagoras with disarming sincerity. “I speak more Greek than my mother tongue, Flemish! Even to my mother, I prefer to speak French, since in Brussels where the seat of Metropolis is, most people speak French,” he says.
Metropolitan Athenagoras visited for the first time the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the age of seven, and there he met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
A traffic accident became the cause to change his life. When we was 21, he decided to leave the law school and attend the theological school.
He was ordained Metropolitan in 2013. He has stated that he has good relations with all Greeks. “In our Metropolis, the majority of the believers are Greeks, and this is the reason why we focus in particular on Greek community. Greek-speaking parishes constitute 70% and the Greek priests are the majority. Out of 55 clerics, including retired ones, 35 are Greeks,” he explains.
In November, the Metropolis of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands celebrates its 50th anniversary. On the celebrations since its foundation, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has scheduled to visit the Metropolis, which marks the first visit after 25 years.