Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, and Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine arrived on the island of Thassos in Greece, following the invitation of the Metropolitan Stefanos of Philippi, Neapolis and Thassos, in order to participate in the first celebration of the “Synaxis of the Saints in Thassos” and to receive their holy icon which was painted for this purpose.
After the official reception at the port of the island, a solemn Doxology was held in the historic church of the Dormition of the Virgin, where Metropolitan Stefanos addressed and welcomed the Primates and expressed his heartfelt joy for their presence in the island.
He made special reference to the Christianization of the Russ at the end of the 9th century AD, when the Patriarch Photios sent the first apostles to Kyiv to preach the Gospel and baptize the first Christians there.
Afterwards, the Ecumenical Patriarch spoke of unity and fellowship within the Church, while referring to the contribution of the saints to the life of the Orthodox Church and the faithful, noting that in the forty years of his Patriarchy, many saints were proclaimed.
The Ecumenical Patriarch also referred to the contribution of the Apostle of the Nations Paul to the spread of the Gospel in the world starting from the city of Philippi.
The Archbishop of Athens referred with warm words to the Ecumenical Patriarch, but also to the presence of the Metropolitan of Kyiv, noting: “Who in the whole world, would not envy such a meeting where the Patriarch of our nation and the faithful people of God preside.”
He referred to the message of unity that is sent to the entire Orthodox world by the joint presence in Thassos of himself, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Metropolitan of Kyiv.
After that, the Metropolitan of Kyiv, speaking in Greek, expressed his joy at being in Greece and his gratitude to Metropolitan Stefanos for the invitation he addressed to him and specifically noted:
“Your official invitation came to us at the beginning of March, in difficult days, when the Russian tyrant was sending his troops to destroy our country and take over Kyiv. The days I was reading your invitation, we were trying to protect ourselves from the Russian bombs. I was reading your invitation not knowing what could happen to us the next moment, the next day.”
Also, addressing the Archbishop of Athens, he expressed his gratitude to him and the members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece “for their love and support for the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine”.
He even added that “the Church of Greece as an older brother bears the burdens and offers its help to a younger brother”. At the same time, he also addressed words of gratitude to the person of the Patriarch for the invitation he addressed to him to co-celebrate on the island of Thassos, but also for the continuous and uninterrupted help and support he offers to the Church of Ukraine after he granted the Tomos of Autocephaly.