Just twenty-four hours after the lifting of the curfew between New South Wales and Victoria, Archbishop Makarios of Australia, hastened to be near his flock, which was severely tested in the previous months, during the period of the pandemic outbreak. The joy of the people of Melbourne was evident, as many of them, clergy and laity, rushed to greet him at the city airport, on the morning of Friday, November 27th.
Arriving in Melbourne, his first stop could not be other than the facilities of the “St Basils NSW & ACT” nursing home in the suburb of Fawkner. There he was welcomed by the administration, staff and residents of the institution, as well as several relatives of the latter.
The Archbishop performed a Sanctification rite, in the presence of representatives of the political and consular authorities, and then shared some of his thoughts with those present, first expressing his deep sorrow and grief for the tragic loss of human lives, which was caused by the pandemic. “We continue to pray to God for the repose of their souls”, he pointed out, “and for the consolation of the relatives who are mourning the loss of their loved ones”.
“But we also look forward to brighter days,” he added, emphasizing that “that is why I am personally here, at the first opportunity possible after the opening of the borders, so that I can look you in the eye and assure you that we are – as we were and will always be – by your side”.
Referring to the brighter days that everyone anticipates for the “St Basils NSW & ACT”, he first reminded that the implementation of the restructuring plan of the Organization has begun, under the Archdiocesan Vicar of the Northcote District, Archimandrite Fr. Evmenios Vasilopoulos, as the new Chairman of the Board. He added that the Holy Archdiocese cooperates with government authorities, who have expressed their confidence in the administration and staff of the institution. On the occasion, he congratulated and thanked the staff for their service and exceptional dedication and care, as well as the spirit of self-sacrifice.
After the end of the Sanctification rite and after wishing God to bless and strengthen everyone, he talked to the tenants one by one, as well as to their relatives and staff members, listening carefully to their anxieties and expectations for the future.
The Archbishop also revealed in his speech that he has received calls for a change in the name of the Foundation, but hastened to say that he will not follow any such practice, as, as he underlined, for the Holy Archdiocese the “St Basils NSW & ACT” is not a business. On the contrary, it is an institution with a long and rich social contribution to the Greek Diaspora and to the Australian society in general, which he and the Archdiocese fully respect. “We do not think about the financial benefit, but we honor our history and our tradition,” he testified. He did not fail to express the complaint that, during the period of intense trial, a portion of the media transmitted false information and facts, blatantly wronging the people of the “St Basils NSW & ACT”, as well as the history of this institution.
It is noted that the ceremony was attended by, the Consul General of Greece in Melbourne, Dimitrios Michalopoulos, the Federal MP, Maria Vamvakinou, the representative of the opposition leader in the State of Victoria and Head of the Health Department, Georgie Crozier, the Mayor of Moreland, Annalivia Carli Hannan, the Director of Nursing of “St Basils NSW & ACT”, Vicky Kos, as well as representatives of organizations of the Greek Diaspora.