image with the sign of the Greek Church

Main Page | The Holy Synod | The Archbishop | News | Solidarity
The Library | Chanting | Technical Support | Contact



Address at the opening ceremony of the 4th IOV-UNESCO World Meeting ”Cosmo Echo–Consonance of People of the World” & 2007 IOV General Assembly


Dear Members of the International Organisation of Folk Art,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the city of Athens, the city of the great philosophers, the great tragedians, and the birthplace of democracy. For global civilisation, this place could easily be called the omphalus of the Earth. However, it is not only the great names, Plato, Socrates or Aeschylus, which led the historians of world history to write down the name of the city of Athens on one of its most brilliant pages. It is an entire people that has lived for centuries and has prospered, maintaining an admirable balance between the satisfaction of the needs of the body and of those of the Spirit. It is the people which immediately realised what goods were at stake, when it was invited to fight at Salamis or at Marathon. When barbaric hordes, subjugated by the tyranny of a monarch, were reaching the walls of the Acropolis, the people of Athens, inspired by the ideals of freedom and dignity, salvaged the right of man the world over to stand with his head high, not out of arrogance but out of the desire to go beyond the appearances of this perishable world and to seek the imperishable and perennial.

The cosmos of the Athenians, the cosmos of ancient Greeks gave birth to many gods, in the desire to explain the multitude of inexplicable things that surround man. In the streets of this city men used to stroll for hours, discussing man’s fate, gods’ will, life, death, truth. They made great progress. And when the human mind was no longer able to go through the clouds of the supra-rational, then, next to the other altars in honour of the known gods, the Athenians also put up an altar dedicated to their inability to approach ―and to their faith in― the existence of another world and a God above the constructs of the human intellect. So they put up an altar in honour of the “unknown God”.

This altar came to the attention of another philosopher, friend of a supra-rational wisdom, which the human mind must quiesce in order to accept. The name of that man was Paul and it was he who, under the shadow of the rock of the Acropolis that you visited a while ago, revealed to the Athenians a God free of necessity and human passions, a God not autocratic or vindictive but a God of love. Indeed, so great was this love that, not bearing to see His creature poisoned by the decay of death, He came to share its tragedy and to lead it back to eternal life, for which it had been created from the beginning.

Some time elapsed, before this message could be taken in by the Athenians. But the seed was there. And it was a seed of peace between earth and sky. What can this mean and how is it related to world peace, for which we all of us thirst so badly, irrespective of our religion or colour? War is now our everyday companion, albeit not in its older, familiar forms. War could well be seen as the most familiar and oldest behaviour pattern of man. Except that, at least as we used to know it from history, war was a matter of battlefields, weapons and visible violence. Nowadays, while these situations still persist, human society also experiences new kinds of war. There is the war for the acquisition of money, the war for the gathering of power, the war for gaining publicity. These new forms of war are waged in the streets of the metropolises, in the offices of sky-scrapers, many times even inside the houses, mainly in the societies of Europe and America. At this point, you may wonder why I speak of the Western man, when addressing a gathering of personalities from around the globe. I am doing so because I would like to emphasise the fact that one more war is being waged. The model of life of the western man has replaced armies and weapons. Invasion is no longer solely of a military nature. This model of life is determined to invade all traditional societies. Let us note, however, that it does not have only negative aspects but many positive ones, too. Nonetheless, it is unfortunately not a model that comes to open a dialogue but to impose itself and indeed, more often than not, to impose itself with a devilish arrogance that crushes anyone and anything that will dare to resist it. It is a model that acknowledges only the rich and the powerful as successful. The poor, the weak, must be tucked away into a corner, they must not be visible. It is as if they existed by mistake. At some point, however, this injustice enrages the weak and then their revenge knows no measure and no mercy. This vengeance is the cause of many and multifarious wars with bombs and victims. Wars of the most inhuman and unjust kind: those of terrorism. Wars more totalitarian and more surreptitious than ever before, since the battlefields are now the streets of cities East and West. Whether in the banlieues of Paris or in certain neighbourhoods of New York, Baghdad or Kabul, violence and death are omnipresent; they are the eventuality that may at any moment break the lives of simple and unsuspecting people.

The world has grown weary of talking about peace. It no longer believes in it. And yet, it has not ceased to long for it. The Apostle Paul found here in Athens a world as wise as our own today but also as tired and disappointed as ours because of its inability to live in the way that it would have wished. The proposal of the Apostle of nations, as he was called, was simple and monumental at the same time: “Come”, he said, “come and meet the Creator of the universe; your own Creator. He is a good God, a God of love. You are the children of a God of love. Your deeper nature is marked by love and peace. Everything around you is a gift. Enjoy it and protect it. Everyone around you is your brother, your sister. Love them. Come closer to God, eat and drink from His love. As long as you live on it, you will feel replenished, you will feel complete. But as long as you forsake the skies, as long as you seek the meaning of life in power and consumerism, death will swamp your lives. Everything will be withering away before it even comes to blossom and you will be hasting in panic to grab what you think your neighbour possesses. As long as you detest the sky, ‘homo erit homini lupus’ ”.

Look around you, look at one another and admire our diversity: colours, different colours of our skin, of the attires that each one of us has brought over from home. What is it that has brought us together here today? It is Art, this gift of God that makes man give birth to beauty. Every one of us knows, judging by his or her own milieu, that today’s life does not fulfill our expectations. We deserve something better. No one can give birth to beauty, if deep inside he or she does not believe that a world of beauty and peace awaits us hidden and invites us to enjoy it. Nevertheless, I am equally convinced that each one of us knows that nothing beautiful is born without sacrifices, labour and struggle. And our number-one opponent here is our own self. It is our selves that we must first convince that the world around us is full of sweet-looking traps. It sweetens us a bit and hurts us gravely. We must prevent our gaze from being trapped in things perishable. We must try and keep it constantly turned upwards. If we succeed, then we shall be able to see our neighbour as a companion on a common course. Then shall we learn to listen and shall realise in awe how much there is that brings us together. Above all, there is one wish that unites us: the wish to live together in peace, sharing the vision of a world that will at last know how to turn this Earth into heaven.

The land you have come to owes a great deal to God. And, fortunately, it still remembers that. This is why it has not forgotten love. It is with this love that we welcome you here today and wholeheartedly wish you a safe return home, your souls filled with light and hope.

[English translation by
Dr N. C. Petropoulos,
M.St., D.Phil. {Oxon.}]

Previous page