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Salutation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Upon His Arrival in Clearwater, Florida - January 4

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Jan 4, 2006

Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, beloved brother in the Lord,
Your Eminence, Brother Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta,
Your Eminences, Your Graces brother Hierarchs,
Devout clergy,
Honorable Dignitaries of this entire region,
Attorney General of the State of Florida, Mr. Charlie Christe,
Board President of the County, Mr. John Morroni and County Board members,
Honorable Mayor of the City of Tarpon Springs, Mrs. Beverly Biliris,
Members of the City Council,
Honorable United States Senator, Mr. Bill Nelson,
Honorable United States House Representative, Mr. Michael Bilirakis,
State Representative, Mr. Gus Bilirakis,
And all other Honorable Dignitaries,
Most honorable Offikion bearers of Mother Church,
Beloved and blessed children in the Lord,

Blessed is our God, who again led the steps of our Humility from the Mother Church to this blessed American nation, where millions of beloved and fine spiritual children of our Holy Great Mother Orthodox Church of Christ live in harmonious coexistence and cooperation along with our much beloved American citizens, regardless of the religious affiliation of each.

These Orthodox faithful piously and creatively traverse the course of this life under the vigilant pastoral care of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, a most distinguished beloved brother and concelebrant of ours with much dedication to the Church, as well as His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios, your local Metropolitan, and all the holy Metropolitans. These faithful are spiritually enriched by the rich springs of the traditional Orthodox Faith, and their piety and love for the Church are a cause of pride in the Lord for the holy Ecumenical Patriarchate; they are also law-abiding citizens of the State and creative individuals in American society.

It is good to be here in your midst, beloved brothers and sisters and children, and Most honorable Dignitaries of this locale, where, with the help of God, we decided to concelebrate with you the Feast of Epiphany and to pray for you all. We bring to you from the humble Phanar the grace and blessing of Mother Church. For seventeen consecutive centuries, peoples, nations and languages have found spiritual solace, and have tasted of the abundant supply of the fruits of the saving Orthodox spirituality under her loving wings.

We came here, beloved brothers and sisters to see your honest faces and to fulfill the joy of our spiritual, living communion with you. We rejoice when we hear about all of the honorable and virtuous things that you, the Orthodox people of Greek decent accomplish, as people of order and obedience of the great United States of America. You are under the protection and care of the country's most honorable Dignitaries, who receive us with very moving sentiments of reverence and an honor that reflects genuine sincerity. Thus, we wholeheartedly express to them our Patriarchal gratification and blessings in the Lord for the personal and national well being of the most honorable President of the United States, and the entire beloved American nation.

We arrived here after a long flight, and you honorably and symbolically bestow upon us three keys: the key of the progressive State of Florida, the key of this blessed local County, and lastly the key of the beautiful City of Tarpon Springs. Through this gesture, you intimate that we are welcome and trustworthy guests of the State, the County, and the City, a generosity of spirit and kindness for which we are grateful. Your honest disposition greatly supports our Humility for the continuation of the ecumenical mission of our holiest Ecumenical Patriarchate.

You all certainly know that our Holy Great Mother Church of Christ did not assume its ecumenical status on her own, but rather through special Holy Canons and decrees of Ecumenical Synods. She acquired global spiritual jurisdiction in 451 A.D. However, she never thought that her role had any part in temporal powers; for temporal powers change according to historic circumstances, whereas the eternal presence of the Church is based on the unshakeable assurance given by her divine Founder our Lord Jesus Christ that "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

Throughout the centuries, the Church of Constantinople maintained the self-awareness that she is primarily a spiritual institution. She managed, thus, to safeguard unchanged the apostolic faith and tradition. She lives as a human organism on earth, but she aims at the immovable city of Jerusalem on high where the government of the faithful believing in Christ reigns. Therefore, her universal work is characterized by respect toward local traditions, language, customs and culture. The Orthodox Church of Constantinople never thought of changing this reality; she never exhibited any temporal and hegemonic despotism that would contradict her Christian morality.

Imbued with this humble spirit of spiritual ministry, the Mother Church rejoices today at the realization that she gains more and more global appreciation and, very moved, she tries to respond to the entreating cry reaching her from all over the world, "Help us in your passing."

Beloved brothers and sisters and children in the Lord,

We know that we acquire our worth by the age-old spiritual institution to which we were called by the mercy of God to minister. But, you all also know of the difficult circumstances that hinder us unjustifiably from performing everything we are obligated and willing to do. We ask that you come as helpers to the spiritual mission of our Ecumenical Patriarchate. The benefit that will result will be a common fruit for our entire troubled world.

Finally, we wholeheartedly thank all who worked for this very honorable and strengthening reception. We pray to our most Merciful Lord, the Prince of Peace, to bless the entirety of the beloved and progressive American nation at the beginning of this New Year of His virtue, the preamble of the rich hospitality of which we already have had a taste.

It is very pleasing to be here with you, and we offer to you our warmest thanks for everything.

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