A Greek Orthodox priest from Athens has been announced European citizen of the year, in a ceremony that took place at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.
Having served as vicar at the Saint George Church at Akadimia Platonos in Kolonos since 1998, Father Antonios Papanikolaou witnessed children not attend school or hang out on the streets as their parents were destitute or addicted to substances.
Father Antonios took initiative and started a basketball team in order to keep an eye on the children and establish a relationship with them.
With the support of his wife Stamatia Georgandi and members of the wider community who empathized the priest launched Ark of the World (Kivotos tou Kosmou) a charity that helps orphan and neglected children.
What started as a small organization has evolved into one of the most important facilities in Greece, housing hundreds of children.
“Out of my window, I could see young children, abandoned, involved with drugs and misery. I started wondering how I could help them. At first, it was a group of teenagers. I approached them and asked them to play basketball. Now, 500 children of all ages come to the Ark”. “Our door will always be open for them,” Father Antonios said in a previous interview.
“I sat down to listen to the children; I accepted them just as they are. I shared their home, the square, the playing field. Through sports and championships, their positive elements came out. When someone is as desperate as they are, what can you say? That Christ saves? They could not care less”.
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