Metropolitan Ioustinos shares his impressions of the Greek-American community
BOSTON – His Eminence Metropolitan Youstinos of Nea Krene and Kalamaria of Thessaloniki, Greece, escorted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on his recent visit to the United States, one of the youngest, most capable and learned hierarchs of the Church of Greece. He spoke to the National Herald about his experiences and impressions while visiting the Greek American community.
He said: “First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you, dear Mr. Kalmoukos, and to the editor of the National Herald, Mr. Antonios Diamataris, for the opportunity you have given me to address to your respected readers… I have only positive impressions of the patriarchal trip to the United States. When I first visited the country in 2001, and now too, I had a most enjoyable experience. Twenty years after my first visit to America, I have confirmed my first impressions. However, the main difference between the first and second trip was that I was now visiting the United States as a member of the patriarchal entourage. As you can understand, this second visit is much more important than the first. During the twelve days of the patriarchal visit, I was amazed by the warm respect shown to the person of our Patriarch, not only from our distinguished Greek-American brethren, but also from political and state leaders. the United States. I am very certain that this honor was not the result of courteous secular practice or diplomacy, but it was caused by the remarkable personality of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
When asked to make three key points that best describe the Greek American community, he noted that “the first would be the ease with which the Greek community joined the social fabric of the United States, which makes a rather positive impact. I saw this not only on my first, but especially on my second visit. The Greeks in America made a significant contribution to the realization of the American dream. It is no coincidence that the “Greek Lobby” plays a leading role in the structure and social, political, cultural and economic progress of the country. The second: Despite the change brought by the weather, the place, the customs of this new place, the distance or the time difference, the Greek-American community strives to preserve its traditions, the values, the faith of its fathers and to pass them on to the younger generation. Something very difficult indeed. In this effort, the Orthodox Church plays the important role of the foundation, as well as the house and roof. I was happy to see the close bond of the Community with the Holy Archdiocese of America, and with the Holy Metropolises which compose it, but also with our reverential Ecumenical Center, to which they belong ecclesiastically. I consider it a special blessing for the Greek community in America that it be under the paternal and ecclesiastical care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, our Mother common to all.
His last point, which he said to submit “with humility, without the slightest trace of criticism and purely out of love”, is that “I would have appreciated if the Greek language was spoken more regularly in the meetings of the Community. I think language preserves genetic and historical memory in a direct way. I’m afraid that if the language is forgotten, the origin will soon be forgotten.
Asked how the local church of Nea Krene and Kalamaria has handled the coronavirus pandemic in recent months and how they are dealing with it today, he said: “The answer is clear and simple. We achieved this by applying all the health rules to deal with COVID-19. I admit it was not an easy challenge. There have been reactions from the so-called “deniers”. However, our consistent approach in implementing health regulations has paid off. “
Metropolitan Youstinos then spoke of the gulf between what the Church is and what it is not, saying: “I am afraid that we have little understanding of what the Church is, let alone. of experience, I may add, of what the Church is. Most of us understand the Church as a social and charitable association, which is obligated to provide to those in need. An association that has a board of directors – the bishops – the members, the people and the goal – the social projects. Unfortunately, even though we are Orthodox, we often have a purely Protestant view of the Church. According to Orthodox teachings, the Church is the Body of Christ that saves the faithful. It is the place of meeting and union of man with God and of man with his neighbor. It’s heaven on earth. The main and exclusive goal of the Church is the salvation of man. Its social mission is only a secondary objective.
When asked what people, especially young people, tell him about the Orthodox faith and the Church, he replied that “most of the people we talk to have respect for the Church and the faith. orthodox. What worries me, however, is that respect stems primarily from the acceptance of the Church as an important and timeless religious institution, which was received by the ancestors and for which it should be honored. It may sound good, but it is not at all good, for this understanding leads to seeing the Church as a museum. The Church is anything but a museum. The Church is the source of Life, for she restores her members through Jesus Christ. It is a movement, a path from the ephemeral to the eternal. It is a real communion between God and men. We therefore suggest to all those who wonder about the Church to “pass” from the plain [automatic] the acceptance of the Church to conscious acceptance and participation in her life. Simply put, we suggest the creation of interpersonal relationships within the Church. Relations with the God of the Church and its members. Honestly, I tell you, when a person enters the Church in this way, then they experience an ‘Easter’ in them, a shift from traditional religion to experienced faith.
Asked about the issues that concern him, he said, “These are the issues that concern every person on this planet. But what makes me particularly sad is that young people feel frustrated with what they are going through. Of course, they are not wrong. We adults have “taken care” to provide them with a world full of pain and agony. However, other historical periods have experienced similar or more suffering, and yet people have endured. And they endured, because they fought. And they fought, because they had principles and ideals that fueled their love for life and creation. There is no better example than the first generation of the Greek American community.