ATLANTA – The 40th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was inaugurated today with the Orthros service and Hierarchical Divine Liturgy held in Atlanta’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America presided over the Divine Liturgy concelebrating with the Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese. Taking part in the Liturgy were His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, and His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey. Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh was not able to be present.
His Eminence Metropolitan Irenaios of Crete, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Congress attended the Liturgy from the Solea along with Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras and Bishops John of Amorion, Savas of Troas, Andonios of Phasiane and Demetrios of Mokissos.
Also concelebrating the Divine Liturgy were The Very Reverend Sevastianos Skordallos, Chief Secretary of the Eparchial Synod, The Very Reverend Archimandrite Grigorios Tatsis; Protopresbyter Fr. George Tsahakis, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Atlanta; Fr. George Alexson, Dean of the Annunciation Cathedral; Fr. Stavros Tsichlis, president of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council; Fr. Theodore Barbas, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Boston; Fr. Luke Uhl, Chancellor of the Metropolis of Denver; Archdeacon Panteleimon Papadopoulos, Archdeacon Michael Diamond, Archdeacon Ryan Rafael Gzikowski and Deacon Vasilios Louros.
Archbishop Demetrios of America spoke to the hundreds of faithful attending the Liturgy both in the Cathedral and the adjoining church hall were the video of the liturgy was transmitted simultaneously.
The Archbishop first expressed the gratitude we all should have for God’s blessings and gifts of freedom and creativity, especially on the 4th of July for the gift of liberty we as Americans enjoy. His Eminence made reference to the epistle reading of the day (Romans 12:6-14), which precisely talks about the “charismata” (grace) given to all of us from God. These “charismata” help the believers grow in the grace of Christ, said the Archbishop noting that “we are the people of great gifts from Christ…and in that spirit we should offer this 40th Clergy-Laity Congress as a hymn of praise to God.”
The representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Irenaios of Crete conveyed the paternal and patriarchal greetings and blessings of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. In his paternal words to the faithful the visiting hierarch said he feels the closeness and unity between the Orthodox faithful here in America and his flock in Crete and all the Orthodox around the world.
A Doxology service followed on the occasion of July 4th – Independence Day, and a southern style barbecue was offered for all in the adjoining facilities of the Cathedral community.
Later in the afternoon Archbishop Demetrios was joined by the other hierarchs and Leadership 100 Chairman Constantine Caras for the cutting of the ribbon at the official opening of the Congress Exhibit Hall. Leadership 100 provided the underwriting for the exhibit area which features numerous booths with vendors from the United States, Canada, Greece, and Cyprus and includes a ministry pavilion which highlights the national ministries of the Archdiocese.
Following the opening of the exhibit area, Archbishop Demetrios attended the opening ceremony of the National Philoptochos Conference, which coincides with the Clergy-Laity meetings. Archbishop Irenaios read the Patriarchal Message. Philoptochos President Aphrodite Skeadas presented the accomplishments of the last two years and thanked among others Bishop Andonios of Phasiane for his leadership and spiritual guidance.
Immediately after, His Eminence accompanied again by Archbishop Irenaios of Crete, Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras and the other Metropolitans of the Eparchial Synod attended a reception and presentation of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians, where a choir performed several hymns. The Order of St. Andrew - Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America also held a reception and a very informative presentation on the issues concerning our Ecumenical Patriarchate, attended by Archbishop Demetrios, many hierarchs and other Archons and delegates.
Daily coverage of the events of the Congress will be available on the web site of the Archdiocese at www.goarch.org. Congress information, reports, and programs are available at www.clergylaity.org.