Pontian Society of Sydney donates Panagia Soumela icon to St Stephanos church

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In a heartfelt display of community spirit and cultural heritage preservation to celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Pontian Society of Sydney Panagia Soumela has presented a cherished gift to the church of St Stephanos at Hurlstone Park.

The Society has donated an icon of Panagia Soumela to the church. The stunning silver-gold-plated replica icon meticulously painted with egg tempera on carefully selected plane tree wood, serves as a profound testament to the unwavering dedication and impeccable artistry of its creators.

The icon of Panagia Soumela is deeply intertwined with the history and identity of the Pontian Greeks. Following the Greek Genocide and population exchange of the early 20th century, many Pontian Greeks were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Pontos region of modern-day Turkey. This traumatic event resulted in a dispersal of the Pontian Greek community across various parts of the world, with many finding refuge in Greece and other countries such as Australia.

Throughout their displacement and exile, the Pontian Greeks held onto their cultural and religious heritage. The icon of Panagia Soumela, originally housed in the ancient Monastery of Soumela in Trabzon, present-day Turkey, became a beacon of hope and resilience for the Pontian diaspora. The image of the Virgin Mary depicted in the icon was seen as a protector and guide, offering solace and strength to the displaced community.

Many Pontian Greeks held representations of Panagia Soumela with them as they navigated the challenges of displacement as they sought to preserve their traditions and identity. The icon served as a reminder of their connection to their homeland and a symbol of their enduring faith in the face of adversity.

Today, the veneration of Panagia Soumela remains a central aspect of Pontian Greek culture and spirituality. The icon is commemorated in religious services, cultural events, and communal gatherings, serving as a unifying force for the Pontian diaspora. Its presence continues to inspire a sense of solidarity and resilience among the Pontian Hellenic community, reinforcing their shared history and legacy.

In times of hardship and uncertainty, the icon of Panagia Soumela serves as a source of comfort and reassurance for the Pontian Greeks, reminding them of their enduring heritage and the enduring power of faith. The icon represents not only a religious symbol but also a cultural touchstone that connects the Pontian diaspora to their roots and provides a sense of belonging and strength in the face of adversity.

By offering this exquisite icon to the church, the Society symbolises its commitment to preserving and honouring Pontian culture in Sydney. It is a pledge of support for the community and the church ensuring that the spirit of Pontos, its sacred traditions and beliefs, remain and thrive for years to come.

Sunday, 19th of May 2024, at St Stephanos Church, 650 New Canterbury Road, Hurlstone Park, after the Divine Liturgy, will be the first unveiling and procession of the sacred icon, along with a memorial service for the souls of the victims of the Genocide of the Hellenes of Pontos. All are welcome to attend.

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