ATLANTA – The 40th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America officially began its work this morning at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. It was highlighted by the Keynote Address of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America to the more than one thousand participants during a combined opening session of Clergy-Laity Congress and National Philoptochos delegates.
Archbishop Demetrios explained how the theme of the previous Congress Gather My People to My Home, because of its vital importance is carried through to this 40th Clergy-Laity and augmented with the invitational short phrase Come and See. He stated, “Come and See has two significant parts and two distinct voices. The first part is the voice of God, calling us directly to the work of going out and gathering His people to His home. The second part of the theme is our own voice as we address those whom we want to bring to God’s house with the words Come and See.” (see full text of Keynote Address)
The Archbishop posed a series of questions and made several observations on how the charge of the previous Congress was implemented at all levels of our Church asking, “What has been our harvest?” He further stated that the theme Gather My People to My Home - Come and See “is not limited to our own Archdiocese with her Metropolises and parishes. This is a pan-Orthodox call and duty.” He concluded by saying that “we enter a new period of challenges,” and “It is time for action. Time to gather the people of God to His Home, always with Christ as His co-workers in sowing the truth, in spreading healing and in promoting life. This is the time for salvation of the world!”
The opening ceremony began with a prayer service, followed by welcoming remarks from the two co-chairs of the Congress William Marianes and Nick Moraitakis. Immediately following, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta addressed all the participants and honored guests of the opening ceremony offering words of pastoral love and care.
With his remarks, the Vice-Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council Michael Jaharis made a very thorough assessment of “the remarkable achievements of the last ten years” and elaborated on the potential for “the continued strength and growth of our Church.” Mr. Jaharis said he believes that “the single largest challenge we face is how to keep the faithful – especially our young people - engaged and active in the Church. The growth and future of our Church in America depends on our ability to keep our young people actively involved and engaged in our Church and community and also our ability to welcome those who wish to convert to Greek Orthodoxy as their spiritual path.”
Aphrodite Skeadas, the President of the National Ladies Philoptochos Society offered greetings on behalf of the 25,000 women represented in this vibrant, philanthropic organization of our Church in America.
The patriarchal representative, Archbishop Irenaios of Crete conveyed the paternal and patriarchal greetings and blessings of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and read the Ecumenical Patriarch’s Message to the Congress. His All Holiness conveyed his personal observations during his visit to the United States last October. “We witnessed the increased participation of the faithful in the whole life of the Church, both in numbers and spiritual depth, the consolation and assistance of the needy, the spread of the Gospel message, the safekeeping of the holy Greek Orthodox traditions and values, and the multiple ways the Church in America has fulfilled her ecclesiastical ministry.” He also points out that “the Holy Archdiocese of America ranks first” among the Eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and expressing his paternal love, states: “You are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and, thus, the love we feel for you never diminishes!” (See full text)
Immediately following the opening ceremony, the Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod held separate hierarchal sessions in which the theme of the Congress was further discussed and analyzed giving the opportunity to the delegates to exchange experiences, and new ideas and benefit from the guidance of the hierarchs.
During the course of the day several meetings and forums took place including: Philoptochos General Assembly, Chancellors Meeting, and meetings of the Archdiocese Benefits Office, Church Musicians, Sisterhood of Presvyteres, Administration Committee and two strategic forums on Orthodoxy and the Orthodox reality in America.
Later in the evening the participants were offered a unique opportunity to visit and tour the renowned Georgia Aquarium, where a social event and dinner concluded the day’s events.
For texts of the Keynote Address and Patriarchal Message, photos, daily updates, and schedules, visit the Congress web site at www.clergylaity.org.