Friday morning thousands of believers prayerfully honoured Saint Demetrius the New, Protector of Bucharest and of the Patriarchal Cathedral.
His Beatitude Russian Patriarch Kirill presided over the festive Divine Liturgy in the celebration of Their Beatitudes Patriarch Daniel of Romania, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania and Metropolitan Rastislav of Czech Lands and Slovakia.
After the gospel reading, His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill delivered a homily addressing the faithful present on the Hill of the Patriarchate in which he noted that their piety is a witness that Romanian Orthodoxy is flourishing today.
May the Lord, through the intercessions of the Holy Venerable Fathers Seraphim of Sarov and Demetrius Basarabov, protect the Romanian land and its pious people from all evils. May this people be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. May it struggle with zeal for the faith given once and for all by the Saints (Judah 1:3), and may it keep the fidelity to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church, which all its persecutors did not overcome, he said ending his speech.
After the sermon, His Grace Varlaam of Ploiesti, Assistant Bishop to the Romanian Patriarch and Secretary of the Holy Synod, read out the solemn commemorative document of the Holy Synod issued in the memory of Patriarch Justinian and of the defenders of Orthodoxy during communism.
A special moment during the Divine Liturgy was the commemoration of the confessors in all former communist countries who defended Orthodoxy and passed away to the Lord. The Litany for the reposed and the “Eternal Memory” hymn were chanted in Romanian, Slavic and Albanian languages.
Patriarch Daniel awarded several persons who suffered in communist jails and confessed Christ during the atheist regime with the Patriarchal Cross, the highest distinction of the Romanian Patriarchate. His Beatitude pointed to the fact that they were offered the Patriarchal Cross because they have born Christ’s Cross in jail in extremely difficult times, when others professed their faith with the price of their lives.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill thanked Patriarch Daniel for the invitation to take part in the celebrations marking the feast of Saint Demetrius the New. His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill referred to the confessors during communism, saying that they are an example for contemporary society. We have learned from them to be faithful to Christ, not to betray our Saviour, to be together with Christ for joy, but also during tribulations, to call always His Holy Name.
The Russian Patriarch pointed to the fact that nowadays people are estranged from God not by physical force, as it was the case during persecutions. Today’s methods are more agile and hit their target.
Today nobody forces a Christian to deny the Church or Christ, but there are numerous efforts and means used so that the Church be seen as part of a national tradition, a kind of folklore, so that the believers might forget about Christ and the Church. Today, witnessing Christ is not less complicated than during persecutions, because man can be estranged from God not only by force, but also through various temptations, by orienting the attention unto earth instead of Heaven, by luring him to a contradictory direction, the Patriarch of Moscow said ending his speech.
His Beatitude Kirill presented the Romanian Patriarch with a hierarchal crosier and an engolpion depicting Jesus Christ.
In turn, Patriarch Daniel thanked Patriarch Kirill for the joy produced by bringing the relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, for the concelebration of the Divine Liturgy, and for the talks on the mission of the Orthodox church in today’s world. Patriarch Daniel presented the Russian Patriarch with an icon depicting St Demetrius the New with an encrusted particle of his relics.
We are entrusted that only the support of Saints represents the force that helps us overcome any temptation, to go through difficulties, but also to feel the joy of being Christians and to prepare from this world to acquire the peace, joy, and gladness in the Kingdom of the All-Holy Trinity, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church noted.
In addition, His Beatitude Daniel addressed Patriarch Kirill the invitation to take part in the blessing of the iconography of the National Cathedral, which is expected to take place in the near future.
The Romanian Patriarch also referred to the over 380 hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, and appreciated the missionary and social activities carried out by Patriarch Kirill, pointing to his particular care for the clergy and faithful.
Patriarch Daniel presented His Beatitude Anastasios with an icon depicting Saint Demetrius the New as a sign of appreciation, but also as encouragement, because during communism Albania was the only atheist state declared in Europe, in which any religion was supressed, priests were killed, and any religious manifestation was banned.
The Patriarch of Romania addressed the pilgrims noting the providential role played by His Beatitude Anastasios in the restoration of the Albanian Church, saying that he is the one through whom the crucified and risen Christ has raised the crucified Albanian Church.
That is why we appreciate him very much and admire the fact that His Beatitude’s work has become an example to be followed by all Orthodox Churches, since in an extremely short time he built many churches, established social, philanthropic, medical institutions for the support of children, families, elderly and others.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav was presented with an icon of St Demetrius the New to remember the festive concelebration of the Divine Liturgy, and to strengthen the fraternal ties between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. We wish him many years, good health and to continue his work, because he has much youthful zeal, the Patriarch said.
Similar gifts were offered to the representatives of the Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte, Georgian Patriarch Ilia, Polish Metropolitan Sawa.
Concelebrants for the Divine Liturgy included Romanian hierarchs, and bishops from Orthodox Churches in former communist countries, who were invited to participate in the events marking the Commemorative Year of Patriarch Justinian and of the defenders of Orthodoxy during communism, and the 10th anniversary of patriarchal ministry of His Beatitude Patr. Daniel.
Photo credit: Robert Nicolae/Basilica News Agency