Patriarchal pilgrimage to the cradle of sub-Saharan Orthodoxy

On the morning of October 12th His Beatitude Patriarch of Alexandria arrived at the international airport of Kenya. During the day, the patriarch had a long cooperation with His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios of Kenya over the course of the Orthodox Church in the country.

On Monday, October 13, 2014 His Beatitude, accompanied by the local prelate, visited the second largest slum in the world after that of Brazil, the well known Kibera. His Beatitude was shown around the premises where the Metropolis runs a Kindergarten and a Primary School, a clinic and the sacred church of St. George. The pupils, boys and girls, had reserved, along with the priest and the teachers, a very warm welcome with songs and dances.


Deeply touched, His Beatitude thanked for the warmest welcome and then distributed sweets and small icons to all the children. Then he visited, just behind the slum area, the very recently completed orphanage, where he toured the premises of the ultra-modern building complex. Then he visited three other primary schools and kindergartens in the regions of Kawaguare Rironi and Kereita. In all schools, His Beatitude thanked and distributed gifts to the children.

On Tuesday, October 14 His Beatitude visited the sacred church of St. Titus in the Moukoui village with the adjacent Orthodox Middle school and kindergarten, and the parishes of St. Panteleimon in Kerwa, St. Seraphim of Sarov, where there is a Middle school for the boys of the same parish, and that of the Transfiguration in Kamangou, where the parish runs a coeducational middle school and a medical center. Returning late in the afternoon, His Beatitude visited the sacred church of Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene in Thogoto, where he held a memorial service over the tomb of the late Bishop George Gathuna of Nitria, the first African Bishop in Kenya. He also visited the nearby health care facility of the parish.

In the evening, he attended a formal dinner hosted in his honor by the Russian Ambassador at his official residence. That was also attended by the Ambassadors of Greece and Egypt. The next day the Egyptian Ambassador organized a formal dinner in honor of His Beatitude as well, which was attended by all the Ambassadors of the Muslim states.


On October 16 His Beatitude visited Archbishop Makarios III Orthodox Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School. There the seminarians of the Patriarchal School in a most melodious manner chanted the doxology and sang praises to the Patriarch’s name and fame in Greek.

His Beatitude expressed his great joy for being present at the start of the new academic year at the Patriarchal School for the first time. Addressing the seminarians, he urged them to benefit from their schooling there in order, on returning to their countries to be able to serve the ethos and splendor of Orthodoxy with all the knowledge they will have gained. This year the first grade is being attended by twenty seminarians from African countries except Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi, who His Beatitude laid readers. In the end, His Eminence Makarios offered as a gift an icon of the Virgin Mary surrounded by small African children, with the inscription in Swahili “Mother of the Orphans’.


After a short break, His Beatitude visited the sacred church of St. Makarios, where he attended an assembly of clergy and laity representatives of the Church and of the surrounding parishes. Metropolitans Gregory of Cameroon and George of Guinea spoke to the attendees, and His Beatitude replied to questions asked by clergy and laity.

The day of October 18, 2014 was a historic day for the Metropolis of Kenya. At 11 am there was a scheduled graduation ceremony for the students of the Orthodox College of Africa. The presence of the Primate of the Alexandrian Church gave special honor and glory to the whole program, since it was the first time the Spiritual Leader of the African Orthodoxy Theodoros II had attended the ceremony. The program of the whole ceremony included speeches, prayers, songs performed by various choirs of the Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School and of the Orthodox Teachers’ College, by talented Orthodox singers, as well as by primary school children.

His Beatitude congratulated wholeheartedly His Eminence, who has been striving to support and promote the work of education in Kenya all these years. He was glad once more to see the progress made in all the fields and promised to continue, as always, his assistance in the efforts made for the development of the Church in the blessed country of Kenya. Addressing those who had finished the Orthodox College, he wished them all the best in the new course of their lives and gave them his patriarchal blessings. In the end, His Beatitude as well as the other officials handed the diplomas to the graduates.


During his visit to the premises of the Metropolis of Kenya, our Patriarch did not fail to conduct a memorial service over the tombs of the late Archimandrite John Eko, a Finnish missionary, whose three- decade work in Kenya was exemplary, first as a teacher and then as a priest, the late “mamma” Stavritsa Zachariou, who also worked tirelessly until her repose, the late pioneer African priest Fr. Eleftherios Ndwaru.

On the morning of October 19 HDB Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Unmercenaries in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi. His concelebrants were His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios of Kenya, His Grace Bishop Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda and a large number of African priests. During the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude ordained as a deacon the second-year seminarian of the Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School John Karakasia, who comes from the tribe of Luhya. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, he expressed his joy for the opportunity given to him to start the second decade of his Patriarchate from the Metropolis of Kenya. He characteristically said, “Here is the center of our mission in Africa.”


In the early morning hours of October 22, HDB Theodoros II Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa having successfully completed his pastoral visit to Kenya, departed for the headquarters of the Patriarchate in Alexandria. Overwhelmed with feelings of love and gratitude, His Beatitude thanked His Eminence Makarios for his successful and blessed visit to Kenya. In his turn, His Eminence expressed the boundless gratitude on the part of the clergy, the people and himself for that visit, so rich in spiritual support for the multifarious work being done in Kenya.

This was definitely not a typical pastoral visit of the Patriarch. It was an unparalleled, profound and rich in spiritual messages visit, revealing the behavioral standards and summarizing the character of the Spiritual Leader of the Black Continent. The Africans were waiting to be close to him in order to see him and kiss his hand, as they only knew him from the photos and wall calendars issued by the Metropolis every year. His visit to Colleges, Seminaries, clinics, schools at all levels of education and Sacred Churches was a magnificent mosaic decorated with the virtues of the Primate of love, humility, acceptance of everyone as they are. His good and simple heart, his warm smile of kindness and innocence, his bright face, his movements, even the way he walked, all of them revealed the greatness of his mental strength and endurance…


Undoubtedly, though, the most impressive of all was the fact that for the first time a Primate had visited the slum of Kibera, where people, especially little children, live despised and forsaken by people. He spent time listening to them, sharing their pain, anxieties, sorrows and sufferings, holding their hands in his own and meaning to instill a sense of hope in them. A Father of infinite kindness who wanted to share their concerns and problems, walked along with them and got a taste of their daily Calvary, clasped their bony hands and promised to carry them always in him, in the depths of his heart, and be their companion and fellow traveler on their difficult road of life.

Makarios of Kenya

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