Patriarchal visit to S. Madagascar

His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa arrived in the city of Toliara in Southern Madagascar on Friday, September 9, 2022.

Patriarch Theodore’s great interest in the mission is a given and this is evidenced by his many pastoral tours throughout Africa. This is the third time he has visited Madagascar and the first time he visited the diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar.

The Holy Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar is one of the newly established dioceses of the Alexandrian Throne. Its establishment, on the proposal of His Beatitude the Patriarch, took place in 2018 and his Grace was then elected. This was soon followed by his ordination by His Beatitude on January 13, 2019 at Saint Nicholas Church in Cairo.

At the airport of Toliara at 12:00, His Beatitude the Patriarch was welcomed by bishop Prodromos of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, the local authorities, the General Archpriest and the High Priestly Commissioners of the three archdiocesan regions. Upon the arrival of His Beatitude, a contingent of 100 people from the army and the police and the local zartan paid tribute.

In addition, the philharmonic band of the city of Toliara played the Greek national anthem. This is not because of a colonial conception of the mission –after all, the Orthodox mission boasts of not having a colonial history–, but because according to the state protocol of Madagascar the national anthem of the country is officially heard/recited only in the presence of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Also, a large group of young people from the local church communities gave a warm welcome to Patriarch Theodore and as expected he did not remain unmoved, showing once again the special love he has for the children and young people of Africa.

Patriarch Theodoros visits Orthodox schools in Southern Madagascar

This was followed by an enthusiastic welcome by the Orthodox people for their spiritual father as well as a Te Deum at Saint Andrew Church Bishop Prodromos of Toliara welcomed the missionary Patriarch with cordial words and feelings of true love and thanked him for his visit to this new diocese of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The Patriarch addressed the congregation with words of paternal love, referring once again to his vision of the course of mission and Orthodoxy in Africa, especially for this region and the new diocese. Finally, in an atmosphere of joy and emotion, he blessed the native clergy and laity in presence and departed to continue his pastoral missionary tour.

On Saturday, September 10, 2022, the second day of his missionary visit, His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa was warmly welcomed by the students of the theological and ecclesiastical seminary.

The seminary bears the name of St. Mark the Apostle and Evangelist, the founder of the Church of Africa. His Beatitude the Patriarch celebrated with great pleasure the inauguration service for the seminary of the Holy Diocese and its offices. Patriarch Theodore then proceeded to the consecration of the first students of the seminary.

The inauguration day of St. Mark the Evangelist seminary marks the beginning of the seminary’s work to achieve the great vision and hope of His Beatitude for the new diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, for the island of Madagascar and for the whole of Africa. From the day of his ascension to the Alexandrian Throne the missionary Patriarch knew that the dissemination, consolidation and testimony of the message of the Gospel can only be achieved through the appointment and training of officials from the local ecclesiastical communities.

The seminary, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Prodromos of Toliara and Southern Madagascar is under the direction of the Protopresbyter Antonios Bafaloukos, Dr. of Missionary studies and Postdoctoral Researcher on missionary issues at UoA

Therefore, the purpose of establishing the Seminary of the Holy Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar is to better organize missionary work. Among other things, this entails the training of candidate clergy and catechists, as well as the theological training of the clergy who already minister and serve in the diocese.

In order to better achieve the purpose of the seminary, a Supervisory Academic Council was created, which consists of the following professors of the Theological School of UoA: 1. Associate Professor Ioannis Panagiotopoulos 2. Professor Emmanuel Karageorgoudis 3. Professor Ioanna Stoufi – Poulimenou, 4. Associate Professor Christos Karagiannis, 5. Assistant Professor Fr. Aristarchos – Vasilios Grekas, 6. Associate Professor Fr. Athanasios Melissaris, 7. Assistant Professor Ioanna Komninou 8. Protopr. Antonios Bafaloukos, the seminary director. The role of the Council is to supervise the syllabus, the classes and the examinations by the designated teachers according to the approved schedule.

The courses that will be taught will be: a. Dogmatics b. Philosophy c. Missionary d. General Ecclesiastical History, e. Ecclesiastical History of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, f. Bible Introduction and Interpretation g. Liturgics – Psaltics h. Rituals i. Catechism j. Patrology

Clearly moved for the inauguration and the operation of the seminary, His Beatitude congratulated and wished from his loving heart to His Grace Bishop Prodromos of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, praying that God would grant him strength, enlightenment and patience to carry out this huge task that has just begun. Of course, he did not fail to thank all those who are supporters in the work of the Holy Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar.

The Patriarch of Alexandria Mr. Theodoros at the Orthodox Clinic of the I. Diocese of Toliara

During the continuation of his program, this tireless worker of the Gospel, Patriarch Theodore celebrated the inauguration of the Holy Monastery of St. Joseph the Hesychast. The new cells, the dining room, the kitchen were inaugurated as the landscaping of the surrounding area of the monastery continues at a rapid pace. Subsequently, the tonsure of a new nun who received the name Gabrielia took place. His Beatitude spoke with words of affection to the probationary nun, admonishing her to experience her relationship with Christ and the Church with true faith and to minister selflessly to her brethren. In his speech, he also praised the importance of monasticism, the need for humility and wisdom, and he emphasized how essential the trial period, mindfullness and lot of prayer are for making the final big decision, which is a decision for life. The pointer and reference point of Sister Gabrielia is her namesake late Gerontissa Gabrielia (Papayannis), the old lady of love, who was consumed in the missionary vineyard of the Lord. Her remarkable missionary activity was not confined to India, although it was there that she did most of her work. Still, Africa has undoubtedly been a place of offer and love for her. For this reason, Bishop Prodromos chose this name for the new nun as a symbol and promise.

The establishment of a new monastery is very important, since, among other things, it will act as a point of reference for the local church and the mission. For a long time, the Orthodox missionary activity has originated from monasteries and monks.

Besides, even the local bishop comes from a monastic life and from a blessed missionary Monastery, that of Holy Unmercenaries in Parnon. In addition, His Grace comes from the historical region of Sparta whose patron saint is Saint Nikon the “Metanoeite”. This great saint had his spiritual roots in a monastery and then became a missionary in Crete, which had been liberated by emperor Nikephoros Fokas. The saint’s work was great, he catechized and preached in a missionary manner. The rich fruit of his work was the acceptance of the message of the Gospel and baptism from a large part of the inhabitants and even the most illustrious ones. Then he breathed life back into the local Church of Crete proceeding to the construction of churches and the ordination of new clergy. Through the few mentioned above, we realize that nothing is accidental in God’s Will and plan.

Following His Beatitude’s tour of the city, the inauguration of the treatment room of the University Hospital of Toliara also took place. This room was granted to the Orthodox clinic of the diocese of Toliara. The fruit of the good cooperation between the local authorities and the Holy Diocese is the agreement for this room of the university hospital to be operated under the responsibility of the Diocese. This room is very important as it is equipped with modern equipment, mammography, CT scanner, X-ray, ultrasound which were donated by the Greek Air Force to the Holy Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, following actions of His Grace Bishop Prodromos. The provision of health services in Africa is something very expensive and often impossible or even unthinkable for ordinary citizens. The great contribution of the Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar and the entire Orthodox Church in Africa is the free provision to everyone of the good of health. The free access to the Orthodox clinic and the free use of all these medical devices, which even for state hospitals are rare, is an essential elevation of the living standards of the region.

On Sunday, September 11, 2022, third day of his missionary and pastoral visit, His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa officiated the Divine Liturgy in the new Holy Cathedral of the Diocese of Toliara, which is honored in the name of the recently proclaimed Saints of our Church, Saint Silouan the Athonite and Saint Sophrony of Essex. His Beatitude expressed his joy and paternal love for Bishop Prodromos and offered him a set of Panagias and a Blessing Cross for the new Cathedral.

His Beatitude the Patriarch addressed the Orthodox faithful in presence and thanked them for their participation in the Sacrament of the Sacraments; then he decorated the local officials, expressing his grateful thanks for their support for the work of the local Diocese and the Church of Africa and the Patriarchate in general.

Then, His Beatitude, in deep emotion, celebrated the memorial service of his late predecessor Patriarch Peter and his entourage who died suddenly during the fall of the Chinook helicopter on September 11, 2004 in the maritime area of Mount Athos. We must respectfully mention that among the deceased was His Eminence Bishop Nektarios of Madagascar of blessed memory.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude laid the foundation stone for the orphanage of the Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar. The Patriarch during his speech referred once again to his hopeful vision for the mission and the diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, saying that the works that begin to be carried out are based on the love of Christ for the inhabitants of the wider region regardless of religion or any other discrimination. The whole ceremony ended by addressing Bishop Prodromos of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, wishing good strength and patience in the difficult task that begins, that of the construction of the orphanage.

On Monday, September 12, 2022, fourth day of his pastoral and missionary visit and tour, His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa, accompanied by Bishop Prodromos of Toliara and Southern Madagascar, visited the 7th and 8th educational institutions of the Holy Diocese and celebrated the customary consecration of these two new school units. He was warmly welcomed by the teachers and students of the schools. The Patriarch spoke about the importance of education in people’s lives, as these young children are the future and hope of the country. His Beatitude did not fail to thank His Grace for his great interest in children, since in just three years, he increased the number of schools from two to eight. He then handed out stationery, notebooks and pencils.

At noon on the same day, His Beatitude paid a visit to the central penitentiary of Toliara, which is a complex of prisons for men and women. There, Patriarch Theodore II was warmly welcomed by the administrative staff, employees and inmates. His Beatitude spoke to the prisoners with words of hope and explained to them the meaning of forgiveness, repentance and tolerance in man’s life. His Beatitude assured them that the Orthodox Church and the local Diocese would be by their side and congratulated local bishop Prodromos for his initiative to distribute food in prisons three times a week. Putting the words of the Lord into practice “I was in prison and you came to Me” (Mt. 25:36) is the best and most successful way of spreading the gospel message. Let us not forget that the Gospel mentioned in this passage is this Gospel of Meatfare Sunday, which is also called the Gospel of Judgment. The prisoners number a total of 800 people.

On Tuesday, September 13, 2022, His Beatitude completed his pastoral visit to the Holy Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar and departed for the Diocese of Antananarivo and Northern Madagascar where he remained for another two days. He then

Protopresbyter Antonios Bafaloukos Dr. Missionary Studies

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