Despite adverse weather conditions, including snow and frost, the Epiphany was celebrated all over Greece yesterday, January 6, with brave worshippers diving into icy waters to retrieve the Holy Cross.
From main cities and towns to islands and villages, Greeks around the country attended liturgies at their local Greek Orthodox churches and then proceeded to the Blessing of the Water ceremonies to watch worshippers dive into seas, rivers, and lakes, to retrieve the Holy Cross.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, along with the Metropolitan of Piraeus and Faliro Serapheim, conducted the main service and the blessing of the waters in the port of Piraeus. The President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos attended the event and released three white doves symbolising the Holy Trinity during the ceremony.
Three Hellenic Navy ships were anchored nearby during the blessing of the waters and carried out a salute during the ceremony, while members of the Association of Greek Underwater Demolitions Divers, both retired and in active service, dove into the sea to retrieve the cross.
The main ceremony in the city of Thessaloniki, conducted by Archmandrite Iakovos Athanasiou, was held in the waters of the Thermaic Gulf with 20 divers, in the presence of Interior Minister for Macedonia-Thrace Theodoros Karaoglou, local government officials and MPs. The cross was retrieved by 36-year-old Michail Apostolidis, who has dived 22 times and retrieved the cross on 16 occasions.
Elsewhere in the city, the ceremony was held mostly in municipal pools with dozens of divers participating.
A Greek Orthodox worshipper nearly drowned after he plunged into an icy river to retrieve the crucifix in the Bosphorus strait in Constantinople, and had to be carried out by fellow worshippers and police scuba divers.
Dozens jumped in despite earlier heavy rain and veteran pilgrim Nikolaos Solis, 31, from Agrinio retrieved the Holy Cross - the fourth time he has done so.
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