After five decades of division and discord, the schismatic community and parish of St Nektarios in Wollongong, NSW, has officially returned to the fold of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
This decision to rejoin the Archdiocese was made in November 2020 during an Annual General Meeting of the St Nektarios Board Committee, but His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia made his first historic visit to the church on Sunday, June 6, to officially mark the momentous occasion.
Also present on the day were a number of political representatives and religious leaders including, but not limited to, the Mayor of Shellharbour, Cr Marianne Saliba, the NSW MP Mr Paul Scully, Ms Alison Byrnes, representing Federal MP, the Hon Sharon Bird, His Grace Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis, His Grace Bishop Emilianos of Meloa and the Archepiscopal Vicar of Canberra and Tasmania, Very Reverend Prochoros Anastasiadis.
Official proceedings on the day began with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, presided over by Archbishop Makarios, Bishop Iakovos and Bishop Emilianos.
This was followed by a number of speeches from the President of the Community of St Nektarios, Arthur Tzortzis, the parish priest, Father Anastasios, and Archbishop Makarios himself.
“We look forward to working together [with the Archdiocese] for the future of our Greek heritage, our Orthodox religion and our grandchildren,” Mr Tzortzis told The Greek Herald after the event.
For his part, Archbishop Makarios was clearly moved on the day by the fact that another community had been reinstated within the canonical jurisdiction of the Church, and thanked the community for their hard work in helping achieve the reunification.
“You managed, despite the difficulties, enmities, egos and practical obstacles… to leave the lie, the schism and division and to come to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church…” Archbishop Makarios said in his speech.
“Our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the first to congratulate you along with the Holy and Sacred Synod of our Ecumenical Patriarchate and all the clergy and the Orthodox people of Australia rejoice with us today.
“I confess with all my sincerity that, from today, our Archdiocese becomes spiritually brighter because yet another schism has been erased and has disappeared.”
Mr Tzortzis and the Vice President of the Community, Kathy Tzanis, later presented Archbishop Makarios with an engolpion as an expression of gratitude for his role in bridging the divisions and in remembrance of this historic day for their parish and community.
The celebration ended with a meal given in honour of the Archbishop who, together with all those present, had the opportunity to take pride in the youth that presented traditional Greek dances.