The current Metropolitan of Belgium, Athinagoras, then Archdeacon, was given permission by his predecessor, Metropolitan Panteleimon, to found the parish of Saints Constantine and Helen in Bruges twenty-five years ago, on May 21, 1995.
In an interview with Anaida Vathi, Metropolitan Athinagoras spoke of his concern about whether faithful would come to the parish in question, as, according to his predecessor, there were no Orthodox in the area.
The Metropolitan stressed that there were Greeks who had restaurants in Bruges, Ostend, Blankenberge, Knokke, Torhout, even in the Dutch province of Zeeland.
He even took the phone book and found names that appeared to be Orthodox, sending them invitations, with the result that people were gradually coming to the services that were held twice a month at that time.
The first purpose of the parish was to integrate the Orthodox into a religious life. As he points out, there were people who had discarded the habit of going to church, whose children knew nothing of the Orthodox religion.
He remembered that they always had one of the most beautiful Holy Week and Easter in Bruges. The cultural life was very rich.”
The services in this parish are held in Flemish, but from time to time other languages such as Greek and Slavic are used.
Metropolitan Athinagoras also highlighted that Belgium used to be a predominantly Catholic country but today there is great indifference to religion.
“So I think all the parishes should focus on this part. Parishes should not remain closed where someone who does not belong to it does not fit. We need to take this step and embrace the whole world. “Unfortunately, Orthodoxy suffers from ethnophyletism.”
He said that he decided the parish in Bruges should be dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helen due to the spiritual connection with the Phanar, Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Source: Metropolis of Belgium