Ahead of the celebration of the double holiday of the Annunciation of the Theotokos and the 197th anniversary of Greece’s National Rebirth and the start of the War of Independence in March 1821, His Eminence Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia visited the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Oslo, Norway from March 16-18, 2018 to preside over the celebrations for “Our Lady of the North” and the related events of the Hellenic Community.
These celebrations were held one week earlier to enable the Metropolitan to return to his see in Stockholm in time to celebrate the feast of the Annunciation and Greece’s National Day there as well.
This trip marked Metropolitan Cleopas’ eleventh pastoral visit to the capital of Norway since his enthronement nearly four years ago. He arrived on Friday, March 16, 2018, where he was welcomed at the airport by the Very Rev. Archimandrite Alexandros Loukatos, Presiding Priest of the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation, and Mrs. Kyriaki Papadopoulou Samuelsson, Legal Administrator of the parish.
On Friday evening, the service of the 4th stanza of the Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos was held in the Metropolitan Church, led by Metropolitan Cleopas. In attendance were Greece’s Ambassador to Norway Her Excellency Ms. Maria Diamanti, accompanied by the newly arrived attaché of the Greek Embassy Ms. Niki Kamba, both of whom were welcomed by the Metropolitan. In his sermon, Metropolitan Cleopas spoke about the person
of the Theotokos, offering a theological analysis of the beloved hymn chanted by the faithful at the conclusion of the Salutations: “The beauty of your Virginity.”
That same evening, joined by Fr. Alexandros, the Metropolitan visited the home of Mr. Panagiotis Tzortzis and his wife Mrs. Elizabeth Papadopoulou, President of the Metropolitan Church’s Ladies Philoptochos Society, to congratulate them on the new addition to their family and bless their newborn daughter. He offered them one of his books on St. Nectarios as a gift, as well as the inaugural publication of the Holy Metropolis of Sweden – a
children’s book entitled “The Story of a Little Angel.”
The next day, Saturday, March 17, 2018, the bishop attended a luncheon offered in his honor by Ambassador Maria Diamanti, which was also attended by Fr. Alexandros Loukatos, the Parish Council President of the Metropolitan Church Mr. Michael Bikoulis, Mrs. Papadopoulou Samuelsson, the President of the Hellenic Society of Norway Mr. John Aliferis, Ms. Kamba, the teacher of the Hellenic School in Oslo Mr. Panagiotis Alexakis, and the President of the Greek School Parents’ Association of Norway Dr. Athena Samara.
Afterwards, Metropolitan Cleopas held a working meeting with the parish council and Philoptochos Society members of the Metropolitan Church. During their meeting, he was briefed on the initiatives being undertaken by the presiding priest and members of the parish regarding the pastoral, social, philanthropic, and cultural ministries focusing on informational services for newly arrived Greek migrants to Norway to aid in their quick social integration through Norwegian language classes, Sunday School classes, youth and young adult groups, and traditional dance classes. He congratulated the aforementioned persons for their initiatives and the renovation works they are undertaking in the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation.
On Saturday afternoon, Great Archieratical Vespers were held in the Metropolitan Church, officiated by Metropolitan Cleopas. The bishop subsequently attended a dinner held in his honor by the presiding priest and members of the parish council.
On Sunday March 19 th , Metropolitan Cleopas presided over the Archieratical Divine Liturgy, aided by Fr. Alexandros and the Rev. Presbyter Fr. Olav Lerseth, parish priest of the St. Hallvard Church in Oslo, of the Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Metropolitan celebrated the sacrament of Chrismation, welcoming a young convert of Greek origin, Mr. Theodore Kolokotronis, to the Orthodox faith. During the celebration of this sacrament, he also spoke to the students from the Sunday School and Hellenic School, who were on hand for this sacrament, along with the other members of the congregation, about its importance.
The doxology for the National Day followed, after which the Metropolitan spoke in Greek and English on the meaning of spiritual slavery and freedom, and the feast of the Annunciation, as well as on the struggles of the Greek people to attain their freedom from the Ottoman yoke. He cited the famous saying of Greek War of Independence hero General Ioannis Makryiannis that the mentality of the Greeks all over the world during that era was rooted in “us” and not “me” and praised all the official organizations of the Hellenic Community for their collaboration. Moreover, the Metropolitan expressed the hope that the elements that characterize and comprise the Hellenic Community in a continuously changing world – unity, cooperation, mutual solidarity, mutual understanding, and accord – may be carefully safeguarded.
Ambassador Maria Diamanti delivered the day’s keynote address and spoke about the historical aspects of the celebration of Greece’s National Holiday, pointing out the importance of unity within the Hellenic Community.
Afterwards, the Sunday School students put on a presentation of the sketch “The Secret School” in the church, under the direction of Fr. Alexandros and their Sunday School instructor Ms. Evangelia Hatzipetrou, theologian. They were joined by the students of the Hellenic School in Oslo, who recited poems and excerpts from the writings of Makryiannis and Rigas Feraeos, under the direction of their teachers, Mr. Panagiotis Alexandis, and Mdmes. Fotini Lazari and Vasiliki Mitsa.
Metropolitan Cleopas congratulated the presiding priest, children, teachers, and parents of the Sunday School and Hellenic School for their invaluable educational efforts, and particularly for their vivid presentation of the day’s show, adding a special touch to the event, which came to a conclusion with the Greek national anthem.
He also thanked Ambassador Diamanti for her inspired speech, Mr. Bikoulis and the other parish council members of the Metropolitan Church, Mr. Aliferis, and Dr. Samara for their role in organizing the events, as well as the chanters of the Metropolitan Church Mr. Panagiotis Pavlos and Kosmas Plakou, who, together with Professor Stig Simeon Frøysov of the University of Olso, chanted the hymns in Greek and Norwegian, thus aiding in creating an atmosphere of piety during the ecclesiastical period leading up to Easter.
The celebrations ended with a reception offered by the Ladies Philoptochos Society in the hall of the Metropolitan Church, featuring a presentation of traditional dances offered by the parish’s dance group led by Ms. Areti Kalantzi.
On Sunday afternoon, Metropolitan Cleopas went to the Musical Theater in Oslo, accompanied by Fr. Alexandros and Mr. Bikoulis, to see a musical production of “Arcadia” by Ms. Marilena Zlatanou, and Mr. Reidar Edvardsen’s Norwegian mandolin ensemble, featuring traditional Greek and Italian songs. Immediately afterwards, he departed for Stockholm and returned to the see of the Holy Metropolis.