The visit of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II to Albania
- The realization of the historical visit of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, His Beatitude Theodoros II began with the arrival at Mother Teresa Airport. All of the metropolitans, bishops, and members of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, led by His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrёs and all Albania, together with clergy and Orthodox believers from the four dioceses, received him at the airport.
At 11.00 o’clock, the Patriarch of Alexandria and his delegation, made up of the Metropolitan of Kampala and Exarch of All Uganda, His Eminence Jonah, the Metropolitan of Mwanzas, His Eminence Jeronymos and the Auxiliary Bishop, His Grace Nikodemos of Nitria, entered the yard of Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral. Believers filled the Church yard welcoming them by chanting and throwing flower petals and laurel leaves.
After chanting the Service of Doxology for the official reception of the high ranking visitors from the Alexandrian Church, the two Primates exchanged greetings.
Archbishop Anastasios offered the welcome first and expressed the spiritual joy and delight that filled the hearts of the Synod and the pious people of Albania. The Archbishop put into words his deep feelings remembering his first meeting with Patriarch Theodoros when the latter was a first year student in the Theological University of Athens; as well as the years when he (Archbishop Anastasios) served as a missionary in Africa and the first Divine Liturgy in Kampala in May of 1964. The Archbishop also remembered stories from the lives of the members of the delegation, when they were still children and then later became his students in Athens. Then Archbishop Anastasios explained also the spiritual relationship between Albania and Africa as two important stations of His ecclesiastical activity.
In his greeting, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, Theodoros II, addressed Archbishop Anastasios with these words: “Dear teacher, you know very well that from the great city of Alexandria, which was built by the Ptolemies, descendants of Alexander the Great, there originated the most famous theological and catechetical schools. The Alexandrian theologians explained the Orthodox dogmas, triumphing thus over all heresies. In the Cathedral I joyfully look at the icons of St. Athanasios the Great and of St. John the Merciful, Great Patriarchs of Alexandria… Whenever I need spiritual renewal I take time and visit the vicinities of the desert of Nitria, where the great hermits lived, in order to be as close as possible to their ascetic spirit…
The two African Metropolitans that accompany me were not randomly elected to be part of our delegation. They are your sons that you raised up spiritually, preparing them for the lofty duty of bishop. You planted the seeds of the mission in Africa resurrecting the missionary awareness of the entire Orthodox Church.
In my own memories, when I was a student in the Rozario School, there was the picture of an enlightened teacher, who time after time would come and visit us. It was You, then the Bishop of Androusa, from whom I heard for the first time about Africa, without knowing that God would direct my steps toward this continent when He told me, “Go to Africa and take up the Cross of the Apostle and Evangelist Mark. And in this month in which we are realizing our visit, here next to you, we celebrate also the fifth anniversary of the Enthronement as Patriarch of Alexandria, as a strong symbol that unites our two Churches.
Ten years ago this martyred Church was visited by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, who is the First Bishop according to Orthodox canonical order. Now, before you is the Second Bishop according to canonical order, but who is at the same time your student and son. While Africa progresses in the spreading of the message of the Gospel, we admire the Church of Albania, who under the inspired guidance of Your Beatitude is marking a strong restoration, and where everywhere we see the miracles of God’s Grace in your work. Years and generations pass and someday we will read that from the vicinities of Africa and Albania there passed the bright figure of Archbishop Anastasios who evangelized and resurrected hope everywhere. Your reputation is well-known, not only in Orthodoxy, but all over the world. You taught us how to be real missionaries.”
The visit of the Pope and Patriarch Theodoros continued, as scheduled, in the St. Vlash Monastery. Accompanied by Archbishop Anastasios, the Primate of the African continent inspected the facilities of the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy, visited the Monastery of Myrrhbearing Women and the girls’ dormitory, and the Orthodox Children’s Home of “Hope.” He, together with Archbishop Anastasios, planted two olive seedlings, a symbol of unity and cooperation between the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Church of Albania.
Later Patriarch Theodoros and his delegation participated in a communal lunch with the pedagogical staff and students of the Resurrection of Christ Theological Academy, as well as the teachers and students of Holy Cross Church Lyceum.
The Patriarch had a warm conversation during his meeting with the young students. He told them about his life and the steps he followed from the moment he was a student to his election to the Throne of the Patriarch of Alexandria. Later on, the other members of the delegation spoke and confessed their memories also of the help that they had been given by Archbishop Anastasios. His Beatitude had foreseen in them, from their very childhood, the path they were to follow in their education and formation to the Episcopal rank.
Archbishop Anastasios declared that he had a dream that was expressed in the wish that one day the Church of Albania should send its sons as missionaries to Africa. “We have often heard” – he continued, “the Hierarchs of the Church speak of the huge needs that the local Churches have. This is true, but each Church, however small and needy it is, should think of mission as an absolute priority of its life, because in this way the Church, where the missionaries go, is blessed, and the Church that sends them is blessed and strengthened. The day will not be far – the Archbishop concluded – when even Albanian missionaries will go to Africa to spread the Word of God.”
With this missionary atmosphere and spirit the first day of the peaceful and official visit of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, Theodoros II closed. Tomorrow, Sunday November 1st the Patriarchal and Hierarchical concelebration of the two Primates in the Annunciation of the Theotokos Orthodox Cathedral will take place, and the main messages of the Primates will be read also.