A solemn Divine Liturgy and wreath laying ceremony was held on Sunday at St Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Church in Liverpool to remember the Pontian Greeks who lost their lives during the Greek Genocide committed by the Ottoman Turks.
The Liturgy, which was coordinated by Pontoxeniteas NSW, Panagia Soumela Sydney and Diogenes Wollongong, was presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia, with the help of His Grace Bishop Emilianos, His Grace Bishop Elpidios and parish priest Father Asterios, among many other clergy.
About 270 people filled the church pews and watched on as youths dressed in traditional Greek costumes from the region of Pontus stood proudly at the front of the church and became an integral part of the service.
The Liturgy marked the first time Archbishop Makarios had attended the Liverpool parish since it reopened following the resignation of the old Administrative Committee. During the ceremony, the first-ever Parish priest, Father Christos, was ordained an Elder and Archbishop Makarios hailed a new era for the community.
This was followed by a speech from Archbishop Makarios on the Greek Genocide, where he described the massacre of 353,000 Pontian Greeks, the violent Islamisation of the population, as well as the destruction of historical and Christian monuments in the area.
His Eminence also strongly called for the international community, including the Australian Government, to recognise the Greek Genocide.
“We wait for the just recognition of this historical reality throughout the Parliaments of Australia and amongst the international community. Not out of spiteful retribution and hate, but because such recognition is a way of ensuring that similar crimes perpetrated against humanity are prevented from recurring in the future,” Archbishop Makarios said in his powerful speech.
After this speech, attendees moved outside to a monument on the parish grounds for a solemn wreath laying ceremony and memorial.
Following a small prayer from His Eminence, the reciting of the Ode in Greek and English by Peter Tsigounis and Lambros Papadopoulos from the Greek Returned Servicemen League of NSW, and a minute silence, a number of prominent members of the Greek community laid wreaths.
This included, but is not limited to, Costas Yiannakodimos, representing the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Christos Karras, the Member for Canterbury, Sophie Cotsis MP, the Vice President of the Pontian Federation of Australia, Esta Paschalidis-Chilas, the President of Pontoxeniteas NSW, Maria Anthony, the President of Panagia Soumela Sydney, Peter Papoulidis, representing Diogenes Wollongong, Nikolaos Chrissostomidis, and representing the Youth Committee of Pontoxeniteas NSW, Kostas Papoulidis.
The wreath laying concluded with a traditional photo in front of the cenotaph with members of the Greek community and the youth dressed in their traditional costumes.
Commemorations will continue on Greek Genocide Commemoration Day on Wednesday, May 19, with an event being organised by the three Pontian associations of NSW at Marana Hall, McMahon Street, Hurstville at 7pm.