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Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of Saint Photios and Saint Photios National Shrine Day

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Feb 6, 2005

Feast of Saint Photios and
Saint Photios National Shrine Day

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On February 6 we commemorate Saint Photios the Great, the ninth century Patriarch of Constantinople. Saint Photios’ contributions to the Church and society at large were indeed extraordinary. A figure of towering intellectual prowess, Saint Photios is remembered for his resolute defense of the Orthodox Christian faith from heresy. He is also celebrated for his remarkable foresight and embrace of other cultures, dispatching the revered Sts. Cyril and Methodios to the Slavic Lands to preach the Gospel and to share the treasures of Orthodoxy and Hellenic culture.

It is thus quite appropriate that Saint Photios serves as the namesake for our own Saint Photios National Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida, a prominent institution of our Archdiocese that serves as an important witness to the religious and cultural legacy that was brought to America by the first Greek immigrants in the eighteenth century. The story of the many hardships endured and overcome by these 400 Greeks who arrived on the shores of Florida in 1768, continues to reverberate in the hearts of all who love freedom. Today, the Shrine stands as an active witness and living testimony to their inspiring patience, courage, and, most importantly, their faith.

Our lives as Greek Orthodox Christians in America are shaped largely by the experiences of our forefathers and mothers, and we are grateful for their sacrifices, which have truly enriched the lives of generations of Greek Orthodox families throughout America. In tribute, many faithful from across our nation journey annually to the Shrine to participate in its active witness and ministry. As in past years, this year on Sunday, February 6, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be leading us in collecting funds for the continued progress of the ministry of our Saint Photios National Shrine. Your contributions will directly aid the general operations of the Shrine, so that it may always serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration by documenting the dynamic and vibrant history of our faith and culture in America, which we generously share with our neighbors.

With your support, and by the guiding hand of Almighty God, our Saint Photios National Shrine will continue toward an even brighter and more prosperous future, shining the light of truth before the people so that they may know the Lord Christ, Who said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

May the pure light of our Lord shine within your hearts, and may His blessings be upon you and your families always.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS
Archbishop of America

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