The first pastoral visit of his Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia to Perth, Western Australia, took place on the 11th-13th of July to celebrate together with the faithful and the clergy of Perth the feast day of Saint Paisios the Athonite.
His Eminence’s love and deep respect for this widely recognised contemporary Saint led him to Perth in order to officiate at the first Divine Liturgy of the newly built Saint Paisios church inside the grounds of the Holy Monastery of Saint John in Forrestfield, Perth. This is the first church in Australia dedicated to Saint Paisios the Athonite, and also one of the very few worldwide.
The climate of excitement and happiness at the Archbishop’s visit culminated after his arrival at the airport where he was first greeted by clergy and faithful alike, and then later at the Holy Monastery of Saint John. There, numerous faithful including young children with their parents gathered in anticipation of his Eminence’s arrival, and greeted him with the word “Axios!” together with the Byzantine Choir of Saint John of Damascus.
The Choir travelled all the way from Adelaide specifically for the Archbishop’s visit to Perth and contributed to his official welcoming Doxology at the Monastery according to the tradition of Mount Athos. At the official welcoming service, Abbott Evagrios of the Holy Monastery of Saint John addressed his Eminence with the following heartfelt words: “Our most respected Geronda, we were waiting for you with tense anticipation, not to arrive in Perth, but to be sent from the Heavens above…to transmit to us the joy of the Resurrected Christ…We will be praying “amongst the first remember Lord our Archbishop Makarios” and we will mean it with all our soul…The history of the Church in Australia was patiently waiting for your arrival.”
To this, his Eminence replied: “…I have to glorify God not because I came here, but because I have you. I am very blessed to have you to be my brothers, to be my sisters, to be my children, to be my people…I would like to devote this Doxology to you. The Doxology was because we have this very beautiful Monastery, because we have this Church, because we have our Abbott Evagrios and this very blessed and beautiful Brotherhood…because we are here to celebrate Saint Paisios…”.
This warm welcoming service was followed by the traditional ‘kerasma’ (offering) at the Hall of the Monastery and followed by Vespers in the newly built church of Saint Paisios, where His Eminence presided together with all the clergy of Perth as well as Archhimandrite Kyrilos and the two Archdeacons, Fr Athinagoras and Fr Stephanos, who accompanied the Archbishop on this trip. At the end of the Vespers service, Fr Elpidios of the church of Saints Constantine and Helen was given the blessing by the Archbishop to become a confessor.
A celebratory dinner for all the faithful was then offered in the Monastery Hall, where the Archbishop greeted everyone, spoke with many of the faithful and received welcoming gifts.
The following morning, Friday the 12th of July, His Eminence officiated the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the new church of Saint Paisios and at the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence gave the Blessing to Fr Thalassios, a member of the Monastery’s Brotherhood to also become a confessor.
His Eminence delivered a wonderful speech about Saint Paisios and emphasised the attribute and virtue the saint would constantly refer to ‘philotimo’, a Greek word that cannot be easily translated into any other language, and “a virtue the Saint had a great deal of”. The Archbishop continued “philotimo is the combination of humility and acting sacrificial love…Philotimo is what made Saint Paisios a Saint and is what could also sanctify us…Our philotimo should be present in every occasion because we owe it to God regardless of the misfortunes we might have faced…Life is short. Let’s try all together to enlarge our hearts with philotimo so that our love will embrace the whole humanity.”
Following on from this, Archbishop Makarios honoured Mr Nicholas Kakulas with the golden cross of Saint Andrew for his great support over the years of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia and specifically of the Holy Monastery of Saint John and the new Church of Saint Paisios.
A celebratory lunch was then offered at the Monastery Hall for all the clergy and the faithful of Perth. Later on that afternoon, His Eminence visited all the three parishes of Perth and was formally welcomed by large crowds of the faithful exclaiming “Axios!“. Archbishop Makarios addressed the congregations saying: “I have a dream for this Church, to move forward to the Australian society. I have a dream for this Church, the people that are there outside to be inside. I have a dream for this Church, the people who are inside to open their hearts, not only the doors…I would like to ask for all of you to work for this. Our Church is not only for immigrants, our Church is for every person who wants to learn the truth. I appreciate your zeal, your enthusiasm, your joy, and I feel your love. And believe me, I have the same feelings for all of you personally, for each one of you.”
The day concluded with a dinner in honour of His Eminence, during which Abbott Evagrios of the Holy Monastery of Saint John expressed in these few words the deep feelings of love and joy we all felt during the visit of Archbishop Makarios to Perth: “Your Eminence, it is obvious that we respect you but what is not obvious is that we are not afraid of you, because we love you. We are extremely grateful that you enable us in this way to live and breathe Orthodoxy”.