Address by Elder Efraim to the Patriarch of Alexandria

20 May 2014

Address by the Abbot of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi, Archimandrite Efraim, at the reception of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa
Friday 3/16th of May 2014

Your Beatitude, Pope and Patriarch,
Christ has risen!

We are at once delighted and moved to receive You today in our Holy Monastery. The reason for Your visit is the Saint whom the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Monastery of Vatopaidi have in common, Saint Yerasimos Palladas, Patriarch of Alexandria, the 300th anniversary of whose death we shall concelebrate over the next days. Divine Providence has so arranged things that, ten years later, You are fulfilling the desire of Your late predecessor, Pope and Patriarch Petros, by Your presence in our Monastery.

The Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate, and, in particular, our Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, most willingly gave the blessing for the celebrations of Saint Yerasimos in our Monastery, at which Your Beatitude will preside.

Your predecessor, Saint Yerasimos Palladas, was a most devout scion of Crete, as, indeed, Your Beatitude is. He shone, and illumined those who dwelt in Western Greece, Epirus and the Peloponnese in times that were bleak, both for the Church and for the Orthodox population. Being well-acquainted with the milieu of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the prominent Fanariotes, he was elected Metropolitan of Kastoria and, thereafter, Adrianoupolis. But the place to which he devoted the whole of his being was Alexandria, where he served as Pope and Patriarch for twenty years. Imbued with the desire for quietude, he resigned the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria, selected Samouil as his successor and transferred the throne to him. He remained for some two years, in order to aid the new Patriarch and help him to become acclimatized to his new administrative duties and to provide assistance with certain problems which had arisen.

He then left for the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, where he spent the last two years of his life. It is certain that, here in the monastery, he would have enjoyed a rich harvest of spiritual fruits from his earlier labours in the Lord’s vineyard, and also his own personal sanctification. In his last letter to Saint Yerasimos, just a few days before his demise, Nikolaos Mavrokordatos testifies that the Saint was adorned with a myriad virutues, that his spirit was ‘warm and vital’ and that he, Mavrokordatos was certain that Yerasimos would be reckoned with the Saints as a God-bearer. Alas, there is no surviving evidence in the Monastery Archive for the period when Saint Yesrasimos was living with us, though this must have been a blessed time.

So it is Saint Yerasimos who unites our Monastery with the Patriarchate of Alexandria, though he is not alone in this. A perusal of the Monastery archives has revealed that our Monastery has a special relationship with the Patriarchate.

In 1580, Patriarch Silvestros of Alexandria, at the behest of the Ecumenical Patriarch Ieremios Tranos, visited the Holy Mountain and made the Monasteries of the Great Lavra and Vatopaidi into coenobia.

In 1597, Meletios Pigas, the Patriarch of Alexandria, who together with Saint Yerasimos was canonized by the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 2002, went to Constantinople as locum tenens of the Ecumenical Throne. On the way, he stayed two months on the Holy Mountain and made frequent visits to the Monastery of Vatopaidi.

In 1610, Kyrillos Loukaris of Alexandria visited the Holy Mountain and the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, with which he enjoyed ties of friendship. Indeed, in 1620, as Ecumenical Patriarch, he issued a sigillium protecting the rights of the Monastery in its dependencies.

In 1712, our Saint, Yerasimos Palladas came to find quietude in the Monastery of Vatopaidi, and fell asleep here in the Lord in 1714, being buried to  the east of the southern choir of the  main church. His honourable and sweet-smelling skull is preserved in the monastery, as are some of his personal possessions, such as his omofor (pallium) and stole, his crosier and his pastoral staff, and a cross reliquary on which the Our Most Holy Lady is depicted. We also have the verati (ordinance) renewing his election to the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria in 1704.

In 1860, the Metropolitan of Kyzikos, Iakovos Pankostas, a monk of the Monastery of Vatopaidi, was elected Patriarch of Alexandria.

We have in the archives of the Monastery a wealth of correspondence between the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Monastery, attesting the manifold financial assistance to the Throne of Alexandria on the part of the Monastery.

In the Monastery sacristy we have the silver pastoral staff of Iakovos of Alexandria.

Meletios Metaxakis of Alexandria was linked with ties of friendship to the Monastery of Vatopaidi, which assisted him in a variety of pastoral works, such as the funding for the first Hieratic School in Larnaka, which Meletios founded as Metropolitan of Kitios.

 In 1930, during the reign of Fotios II as Ecumenical Patriarch, the convocation of the Inter-Orthodox Commission was arranged, and proceedings were held in the Monastery of Vatopaidi. Among those who took part were Nikolaos of Ermoupolis and Christoforos of Leontopolis, of the throne of Alexandria, both of whom served later as Patriarchs of Alexandria.

We hope, Your Beatitude, that Your visit to our Monastery will renew and further our relations. We make our boast in the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the second in seniority in the Orthodox Church, and we greatly appreciate its missionary work in Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, where our Monastery has also contributed in a variety of ways over the past few years.

Welcome! Christ has risen!