During the past month of May our Holy Metropolis here in Madagascar was honored with the visit of the Venerable Primate of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, His Beatitude Theodoros.
The program that followed was admittedly quite exhaustive as he wanted in this short tour in our country, to cover the widest possible range of visits to His beloved flock regardless of cost, conditions and personal physical fatigue.
On Friday afternoon June 5th he arrived in Toliara, the capital of the broader region in the southern part of the country. There he received a very warm reception perfectly and earnestly organized by the whole body of clergy and the people of Toliara. At St. Andrew’s Cathedral he was addressed in the local language by the chancellor of our Holy Metropolis while the crowds of believers accompanied him with enthusiastic applause, an expression of deep emotion and love for their Venerable Primate.
In the Toliara region he also inaugurated the new wing of the Orthodox medical clinic in Betanimena which has been erected courtesy of an anonymous lady-donor from Greece and the overall concern of the Cyprian monk Anastasios, who, with the help of donors from Cyprus, provides full coverage for the maintenance of the clinic in terms of medicine and medical equipment. It is a project that relieves the suffering of the poor in our region since with minimal contribution on the part of the patients it covers the costs of diagnosis and treatment for our sick people in pain and distress. The ceremony was followed by festivities, where His Beatitude the Patriarch was warmly welcomed and addressed by representatives of the state and the local authorities who accompanied him throughout his visit to our town and who expressed their deep gratitude and appreciation not only to His person but also to the Orthodox Church as a whole for their continuous presence and interest in the poor of South.
The events culminated with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Indoor Stadium of Toliara, where both State and Church representatives as well as crowds of clergy and faithful sang and praised God in the first outdoor Patriarchal Divine Liturgy in southern Madagascar.
One of the most emotional moments was when the Venerable Primate of our Patriarchate censed the crowds of believers, who were attending the Divine Liturgy with reverence from the stands of the stadium.
The Patriarch was offering the incense and was blessing the world, the Stadium, our faithful, the clergy, our city…
The journey of our Venerable Primate has come to an end. Now we are sitting with Him by the sea, where the famous Mozambican channel with its angry waves joins our world, the land of Madagascar, with the other similarly unfortunate Mozambique world, the land of Africa. His eyes, when gazing at the ocean, sometimes shed a tear and seem lost in thought. Sometimes they come alive again and talk to you through the serene smile on His face. They tell you about tomorrow, about the missionary vision, about expectations.
He turns to one of the people present and with a deep and heavy tone in his voice utters the great and ultimate address. Not from a piece of paper, but from the bible of the heart; a big heart, full of love and compassion for our fellow man.
My son! Please, have these people at heart and provide for them! Take care of the poor of the remote and isolated regions of Toliara. Care about the faithful of our cities. Make our church shine through this city. Forget anything else, any other possibility for your life and dedicate yourself entirely to ministering to this poor people.
My child! … Safely graze my sheep! And always bear this Cross with love and patience. The Cross whose roots go very deep and meet our sweet basil. The basil that reveals our primeval past and our primal roots. The roots of Orthodoxy, the roots of Faith, Hope and Love in this poor world.
But above all the roots of Love; such a kind of Love that did not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the brother and the fellow man, and is eager to do it again if necessary. Look at the predecessor at the helm of this Holy Metropolis and remember this name forever: Nektarios! He passed on in the deep waters of the Holy Mountain and gave his martyred blood for his last mission in this world. His blessings will always follow you and his life will light your way and guide you!
But my child, bear in mind that the blessings and wishes of a Patriarch will always follow you!
Do not leave, my son!
«If you love me, feed my sheep. Be a shepherd for my flock… And I am with you always, even unto the end of the world…”
My son! I am going back to Alexandria, but my wishes and my prayers remain with you forever.
My children! I always remember you in my prayers.
May God and our Lady be with you.”
Priestmonk Polycarpos of Hagia Anna