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(St. Titus Cathedral, June 18, 2016)


Your All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Your Beatitudes, Primates of the Holy Orthodox Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches, together with Your Honorable Delegations,
Honored Guests,

We welcome you to the historic city of Heraklion and to Crete, here in the square of the Holy Cathedral of St. Titus, the First Bishop of our Island, with feelings of deep respect and honor.

At an exceptionally critical time for mankind’s present and future, in the midst of countless challenges, financial crises, wars, millions of refugees and immigrants who are being forced to leave their homes due either to violence or extreme poverty. At a time when man’s egotistical tendencies and passions have come to a head, prosperity is being billed as life’s singular pursuit, with solidarity and peaceful coexistence being set aside, while fanaticism of every form, extremist views, and a variety of impasses have made their appearance. In the face of all this, the Orthodox Church has stood, stands, and will continue to stand as a beacon of solace, a source of spirituality, a pathway of love, contribution, and fraternity.
The Church of Crete, with its unbreakable ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and a spirit of unity, moderation, social sensitization, and unshakeable Christian piety contributed and continues to contribute decisively to the common journey that inseparably binds the people of Crete together, ever keeping with the Cretan tradition and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s spirit of open horizons.

Together on this harmonious path, all Cretans press forward, confronting the issues of our daily existence and life’s major events with courage and perseverance.

Christianity’s message always appeals to the hearts of men, inviting them, together with St. Paul the Apostle, to embrace “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious” (Phil. 4:8) for a world of justice, liberty, solidarity, and peace.

In the 21st century, the Orthodox Church is called to fulfill its mission within multicultural societies that are constantly changing. Seclusion and divisions do not represent solutions. In fact, they run the risk of marginalizing the Message of the Gospel. And in this new and challenging environment, Christianity’s philanthropic dimension ought to serve as a starting point, testimony and act of love.

From this site in front of the historic Cathedral of St. Titus, where the 50th Anniversary of the Return of the Precious Skull of the Holy Apostle Titus, the First Bishop of Crete, was magnificently celebrated just a few days ago, we welcome the convocation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church as an event of momentous historic importance. At the same time, we convey our fellow citizens’ sentiments of devotion, prayer, and hope, together with the expectation that the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church will bear plentiful fruit, accomplishing unity, cooperation, advancement of dialogue, messages of solidarity, and the display of genuine aspects of Christianity.

The Council that is taking place in Crete and represents the culmination of decades of preparation enables the display of the unshakable virtues of faith, duty, and the expanded mission of Orthodoxy in the modern world.

We offer you our heartfelt welcome, and together with you we look toward the constructive outcome that will proceed from the Holy and Great Council.