He spoke passionately about Imbros at an event to present an album about the traditions of the Aegean island, held in his village, Agios Theodoros – and referred to the catastrophic fires in Greece and Turkey
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew urged the youth of Imbros to embrace and safeguard “as the apple of their eye the traditions of our fatherland and the priceless values that make up our identity and have saved our people,” in his address on Wednesday afternoon, August 14, during a special event held in his village, Agios Theodoros of Imbros, for the presentation of the album “IMBROS - Journey Through Time, Through Tastes and Traditions,” edited by Ms. Despina Portokalis and published by the Imbrian Association of Athens.
“Every initiative that contributes to the preservation, cultivation and promotion of the culture of Imbros is valuable and commendable, and it makes us very happy. What has survived for so many centuries, that has saved the inhabitants of our homeland as living souls, must not be lost today, in the age of human rights and struggles for cultural identity,” the Ecumenical Patriarch said, adding:
“We glorify the God of love from out of the depths. The unacceptable 1964 ‘Dissolution Program’ caused terrible suffering, but it did not disrupt the character or the morale of the Imbrians. On the contrary, the unprecedented test has become training, a source of dynamism, in order for us to maintain our identity. We are grateful to those who stayed in suffering Imbros all through the hard years. Without them our villages would not be there today; our own Imbros would not have survived. Nor, of course, did the foreigners alter our souls and our legitimacy. Wherever Imbrians were found, they ‘kept Imbros within them,’ keeping it embedded in their lifestyles in foreign lands.
“And look! Today we are on an upward course. We are confident that progress will continue. Your Patriarch is struggling for this and is constantly praying that God the giver of good will remember and bless the place of our birth. Our schools are functioning, and for the first time in the history of the island, we have our high school. The gates of the churches are open. We have many refurbished chapels, and the two monasteries of Saints Constantine and Helen and of Taxiarchon, with the loving interest of our pastor. Many of our compatriots are returning to our unforgettable homeland. Abroad, Imbrians are driven by their hard work, intelligence, and morality. Your Patriarch is proud of you all!
“The spirit of Imbros, all pure, righteous, modest, affectionate, true, genuine and authentic, of the beautiful traditions of our homeland, also appears in the book ‘Imbros - Journey Through Time, Through Tastes and Traditions.’ […] Along with the traditional recipes of Imbros food, the spirit, the ‘spiritual flavors’ and the aroma of eternity, which are the core of a way of life, are preserved where truth is relationship, life is sharing and giving, existence is coexistence and solidarity. The ‘Journey Through Time, Through Tastes and Traditions’ includes the fine texts of Maki Boutaras and Sotirios Theocharis, and the poems of Alkis Schinodiotis. Warmest congratulations to the curator of the Xenophon Tzavara album, to the Imbrian Association of Athens, and to the Ladies Committee of the Association. A special thank you to dear Despina Portokalis, whose noble care and assistance in due time made possible this tasteful and very well-constructed publication, which, in fact, gives off a wonderfully Imbric fragrance.
“For us, the Imbrians, the whole world is lost in the waves of the ‘playground’ of the Aegean. ‘Imbros is the self of ourselves, the soul of our soul. What belongs to Imbros cannot and must not be foreign to us. It belongs to us and we belong to it,’ wrote Athanasios Sporos of blessed memory several decades ago in the magazine ‘Imbros.’”
And addressing the Imbrian youth, His All-Holiness pointed out:
“We are unable to complete this brief greeting without addressing the new generation of Imbros, face to face. We, the older ones, were born and raised in Imbros. We have a direct experiential relationship with the lifestyle of our birthplace. We share common experiences, shared memories, shared expectations and the pain of the terrible disaster we have experienced. For you young people who were not born in Imbros, Imbros must be born in your heart, where the truth ‘takes root and does not come out,’ as our people say. The Imbros-loving Patriarch invites you to embrace and preserve the precious traditions and priceless values that form our identity and save our people.
“Please think about and visit Imbros, open the homes of your ancestors, so that the living can rejoice and gladden the souls of the deceased. To keep the bell ringing. To hear the ancestral voice of the Imbrians. We invite you to support the operation of our schools, which have created new hope and prospects for a better future for Imbros. Also, participate in the work of our clubs and associations. And always ask the question: ‘If we are not interested and we do not fight for Imbros, who else will do it?’”
Earlier, His All-Holiness had celebrated the eve of the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God in the church of his village; in attendance were Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra, the Consul General of Greece in Istanbul, Ms. Georgia Sultanopoulou, the Consul Ms. Danae Vassilaki, the Consul of Greece in Vietnam, Ioannis Raptakis, the President of the Athens Imbrian Association, Stylianos Poulados, and the members of the board, the President of the Macedonia-Thrace Imbrian Union, Pavlos Stamatidis, and the members of the board, the President of ESIEA, Ms. Maria Antoniadou, and numerous natives of Agios Theodoros and of Imbros living in Greece and other countries.
“I suppose you see on our face the joy and emotion of tonight’s event, that we have been found worthy to celebrate once again the feast of our All-Holy Mother on our island, and we are here tonight in our village,” His All-Holiness said to the faithful in his brief address.
“For me personally, these days of August have a special, personal, emotional complexion and meaning and significance, because 58 years ago yesterday, I was ordained a deacon of the Metropolis, of our All-Holy Mother, and on the evening before, August 12, in the upper Church, of Saint George, with a deep desire to become a rassophore, I wore, by the grace of God, the rasson which I have worn ever since, I repeat, for 58 consecutive years, by the grace of God, and despite my unworthiness, I bring it, and as our great fellow villager Archbishop Iakovos of America once told me, ‘in this they will bury me.’ Glory to God for all things!”
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referred to the person of the Virgin Mary and the special honor given to her by the faithful, “because we believe and regard her as the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of the world, the Mother of each of us. That is why we look forward to her grace especially during the difficult times of our lives. That’s why her people gave her so many names. They estimate that the so-called Theotokonymia, the names of Theotokos, exceed 1300. And all these many names and titles of our All-Holy Mother did not come from the mouth of the people, from the lips, but out of the depths of the heart, from the Orthodox consciousness, from his worship and devotion to our All-Holy Mother.”
At the end of his address, His All-Holiness also referred to the devastating fires that broke out in Greece and Turkey in the last few hours.
“I would like to express our regret, of course, for the great fires that have broken out mainly in Euboea and in other parts of Greece, and here in Turkey, in Proikonissos, in Eskisehir, and ask that God would save us all from the scourge of fires.”
On Wednesday morning, His All-Holiness celebrated the Trisagion at the Metropolitan Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, where in 1961 he was ordained a deacon in the capital of the island, Panagia, for the repose of the souls of his Geron, the Metropοlitan Meliton of Imbros and Tenedos, of the late Cyril, of the deceased of Gortyn and Arcadia, and those present at his ordination, later Metropolitan Maximos of Serron and Nigritis and Theoklitos of Metron and Athyron.
Subsequently, he made ceremonial visits to the Prefect and the Mayor of the island and wished them all the best in observing the sacrifices of the Muslims.