History made as Greek Orthodox church service opens parliamentary year

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In a historic first, the Ecumenical Service to mark the commencement of the Australian Parliament was held this morning at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox church in Canberra.

The service has been held in the local Anglican, Catholic or Presbyterian churches in previous years, making this event the first time the service has been held in a Greek Orthodox church.

“We had discussions last year about the need for other members of the Council of Churches to be able to host this Ecumenical Service at the start of the Parliamentary year,” the Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, Luke Gosling MP, told The Greek Herald on the day.

“I’ve been working with John Loukadellis [the President of the Greek Orthodox Community and Church of Canberra – GOCCC] and Bishop Bartholomew of Charioupolis [the Archiepiscopal Vicar of Canberra] for many months now, and it’s wonderful that this day has come and it’s a great way to kick off the Parliament.”

About 170 people, many of them Parliamentarians, arrived on the day and were greeted by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, who presided over the service.

Archbishop Makarios arrives and speaks with Maria Vamvakinou MP and Steve Georganas MP.
Bishop Bartholomew, Bishop Silouan and Archbishop Makarios (centre) stand with Members of Parliament.

Those in attendance included the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison; Federal Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese; Maria Vamvakinou MP; Steve Georganas MP; Ambassador of Greece in Australia, George Papacostas; His Grace Bishop Silouan of Sinope; Bishop Bartholomew and the President of the GOCCC, Mr Loukadellis.

Federal Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, arrives.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, arrives.
Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.
Mr Morrison greets Archbishop Makarios.
Mr Morrison enters church.

Following the arrival of the Prime Minister, attendees moved inside and began to sing the Australian National Anthem, followed by a Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country by Bishop Bartholomew.

Senator Amanda Stoker and Minister Gosling then gave a small greeting, followed by an Old Testament Reading from the Prime Minister, a New Testament Reading from the Labor Leader, and a sermon by Archbishop Makarios. The Prayer of Intercession was given by Archbishop Most Reverend Christopher Prowse and The Right Reverend Dr March Short.

Ministers enjoy the Ecumenical Service.
Morrison gives a reading.
Archbishop Makarios gives a sermon.
Labor and Liberal Ministers.

After the event, the Prime Minister said holding the service in a Greek Orthodox church “was particularly nice.”

“First time we’ve done that and it reminded me, as we consider some of the big issues of today and the Parliamentary year, that people from all around the world have come to our country and they’ve so often come from many different faiths and many different backgrounds,” Mr Morrison said.

Bishop Bartholomew agreed with Mr Morrison and told The Greek Herald that the event “recognises the important role that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese plays in the Ecumenical Movement, the Australian Parliament and the wider community.”

Albanese with other Labor ministers.

“Under the esteem leadership of Archbishop Makarios… the establishment of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan District of Canberra demonstrates that the Church places importance in preserving our faith, language and culture for the people of Canberra and that the Greeks of Canberra now have a voice,” the Bishop said.

The President of the GOCCC, Mr Loukadellis, added that the service “was a historic and memorable event for the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia and for the Greek Community of Canberra in particular.”

Mr Loukadellis speaks with Archbishop Makarios.
(L-R) Vice President of the GOCCC, Pana Tsironis, Steve Georganas MP and Mr Loukadellis.

“We are immensely proud of what today means for our faith and to us as Greek Orthodox Christians,” Mr Loukadellis told The Greek Herald.

“I would like to thank Archbishop Makarios and Bishop Bartholomew for their spiritual guidance, as well as the Honorable Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and all the Parliamentarians who attended this historic event for our church.

“Today, Greeks of Canberra should be proud.”

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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