Dear Friends of the Mission,
It is with great pleasure that I communicate with you in order to inform you of the official visit of our Prelatic Shepherd, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodore, to Madagascar last June. This visit was planned long ago, so by the grace of God and the blessing of our spiritual father it was a great success. We praise God and thank everyone who contributed to the good organization of the visit of the Primate, clergy and laity. All of us tried to do the very best we could for the glory of God and our Church.
The venerable Primate with his entourage arrived at the airport on 29th May. There he was welcomed by a large crowd of young and old, all dressed in traditional costumes and holding in their hands small flags of the Patriarchate and of Madagascar. Also present were representatives of the state, ambassadors and other important agents. At the entrance to the Church priests and people were waiting lined up in two rows and chanting «It is truly meet». They all went to the church, where a doxology was performed and speeches were given respectively. His Beatitude thanked everyone for the warm welcome they had reserved for him.
The next day, the Saturday before Pentecost the inauguration of the girls’ orphanage was held on a privately owned Mission land of 10,000 sqm in a suburb of the capital. The construction of the building had begun a long time before with major funding coming from Australian expatriates, with the blessing and support of the Archdiocese of Australia. A wing was funded by the lady donor Mrs. Sarafoglou in memory of her husband Nicholas, through the Orthodox Missionary Fraternity.
By the grace of God the construction work ended, except for a few remaining details and the interior equipment. The orphanage was a dream come true by the grace of God and with the people’s assistance. In my humble opinion, charity work should be interrelated with missionary work in these countries. The orphanage will be home to both orphaned girls and abandoned ones and will provide these children not only with shelter, clothing and education but also with a bright future and integration into the society.
The opening ceremony took place in a spiritual atmosphere with rich decoration, crowds of people and participation of politicians and other ecclesiastical authorities. The inauguration of the Sacred Church of the Theotokos, which is located within the premises of the Orphanage, was scheduled for the day of Pentecost. The church was built in order to meet the spiritual needs of the children that will be accommodated in the orphanage, but it will also serve as a parish church. It is situated in a good location close to a main road.
The opening ceremony was held with all due solemnity and reverence, while the Archbishop explained the meaning of each moment. The service was a long-lasting one, but the world and the officials stayed till the end. Subsequent to the service, there was a fellowship dinner for the entire congregation accompanied by a rich program of traditional music and dance.
On the Monday of the Holy Spirit there was a Divine Liturgy celebrated at the cathedral, where His Beatitude honored clergymen for their significant contribution to the Church and to the missionary effort as well as laypeople for their selfless love and genuine interest in the Church.
After the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude met with all the priests of the H. Metropolis, heard their problems and gave them counseling and guidance for their spiritual growth.
The next day, His Beatitude met with the President of the Republic of Madagascar. The meeting was attended by His Excellency the Ambassador of Egypt, the Honorary Consul of Greece and Cyprus and clergymen of the H. Metropolis. His Beatitude informed the President about the missionary and charity work done by our Holy Metropolis.
The event scheduled for the next day, 3rd June 2015, was the opening of the University in Manakara. This town is 600 km away from the capital and is located southeast of the country. The university construction was funded by Christian donors from Karditsa, Greece, upon the initiative of The Very Reverend Archimandrite Fr. Kyriakos Tsolakis, and was built at the request of the District Governor in order to meet basic needs of agronomic nature regarding tropical plants and other types of surveys.
Upon arrival in Manakara, the Patriarch and his entourage as well as all the faithful went to the Holy Trinity Church, a donation of your Fraternity, where a doxology was chanted. His Beatitude spoke briefly to the flock and then, all together, arrived at the university premises, where many people, including official agents, were gathered waiting for their Spiritual Shepherd. The opening ceremony was attended by enthusiastic crowds and a multitude of students. The State Representative thanked His Beatitude for this great contribution of the Church to the Government and conveyed the appreciation and gratitude of the country’s President.
On June 4th there was a scheduled visit of His Beatitude to Arany village for the opening of a high school. The village is two hours away from the missionary center. Schoolchildren in traditional dress holding flags in hand were singing traditional songs. The bells were ringing joyfully until we arrived at the church. Next, we all went to the high school, which is situated beside the church, for the conduction of the Water Blessing ceremony.
On Friday 5th June 2015, His Beatitude with his entourage arrived in Toliara, the biggest town in the southern part of the country. The church was filled with people of all ages, young and old, who had come from the villages to welcome the Patriarch. His Beatitude thanked them and spoke with spiritual words about the salvation of the soul.
The schedule for the next day included the opening of the medical clinic at the missionary center. In this region of Toliara there is a clinic with a lot of departments. The person in charge, Fr. Anastasios from Cyprus, monk and physician, considered a good idea to have hospital-level upgrades for the clinic by creating more departments. The project was completed thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous lady, and on June 6th the inauguration took place. His Beatitude officiated at the Blessing Ceremony and then was shown around all the wings of the clinic.
On Sunday, June 7th, His Beatitude along with the priests celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the indoor stadium of Toliara, which had been properly equipped with a raised platform, a large altar, icons, a throne and all the things required for the celebration of the D. Liturgy. Crowds of faithful as well as officials had been gathering since the morning, Our Christians had arrived by bus in time for the event, even those from the most remote villages. Soon the stadium was filled to capacity.
Everything was marked by the majesty and the splendor of the Eucharist. The Patriarch and the priests as well as the dances created a spiritual atmosphere.
In the end, His Beatitude preached the Word of God, administered Holy Communion and after the dismissal he distributed the holy bread to the people present. Everyone rejoiced and enjoyed this spiritual feast, praising the name of the great God.
Returning to the missionary center, a fellowship meal had been prepared for all the faithful, as it was getting late, and many of them had to take the way back home to their distant villages.
The visit of the Patriarch was a blessing for the Metropolis 0f Madagascar. The presence of His Beatitude was necessary because it gave us courage to continue our struggle, overcome the difficulties and the problems we encounter, communicate with him like a father to his children, talk about our problems freely and unreservedly and make decisions on new projects together in the future. This communication is essential because we are confronted with plenty of difficulties and problems, which requires the mediation of our Patriarch with his long and varied experience.
† Ignatios of Madagascar