Monday, December 6, 2010

Monks from Mount Athos Visit Diocese of Akkar

Adapted from the French original, by Carol Saba, which can be found (with pictures!) here.

A delegation of monks from the Monastery of Simonas Petras on Mount Athos, led by the monastery's abbot Archimandrite Elisha, began a visit to the Archdiocese of Akkar (North Lebanon) on November 29, at the invitation of Met. Basil. The first stage of the visit began with a reception at the seat of the archdiocese in Sheikh Taba, where the delegation was greeted by Metropolitan Basil along with a number of clergy from the archdiocese, Deputy Nidal Tohme, and other local dignitaries. In his welcome speech, Met. Basil highlighted the importance of these exchanges with Mount Athos and pointed out the bonds that exist between the Holy Mountain and the Patriarchate of Antioch. He also referred to the particular bonds that connect the patriarchate with the Monastery of Simonos Petras where many bishops, monks, priests, and faithful like to spend time for healing and contemplation.

The Athonite delegation's visit will continue until December 11. Many visits are planned in different dioceses. In his response to Met. Basil, Fr. Elisha noted his joy in being there with the group of fathers who are accompanying him. "We feel like we are with family here. We came to this region to learn about your works and your spiritual combat and in order to transmit to you the blessing of Our Lady the Virgin Mary, the protectress of Mount Athos." He confirmed that reciprocal visits deepen the bonds that have been created over the past more than twenty years with the dioceses of the Holy See of Antioch, "since the time that many fathers came to study in Greece and lived at the monastery. They are always welcome and they will live in a place in our heart."

After visiting the seat of the archdiocese, the delegation went to the Syrian part of the archdiocese, where a liturgy was concelebrated with Met. Basil at the Church of Holy Virgin in Tartous. On December 2, the delegation visited the National Orthodox School of the Archdiocese of Akkar and were met by Met. Basil and the school's faculty. The inauguration of an exposition of icons was followed by a traditional meal for the occasion of the feast of St. Barbara, an important popular festival in Syria and Lebanon. On December 4, the village of Rahbe was visited by relics of its patron, St. George. Relics of St. George were brought to the village's Church of St. George by Archimandrite Elisha in a large and fervent procession to the sound of bells being rung and rice and flowers being thrown. After the celebration of vespers, the parish priest offered Athonite delegation a ceder to be planted on the Holy Mountain.

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