Bishop Agathonikos (photo from here)
On Saturday 29th April, the eve of the Enthronement of His Grace Agathonikos Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania, with the blessing of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa and in the presence of His Eminence Dimitrios Metropolitan of Irinopolis, Caretaker of the Diocese, a group of visitors from the Holy Metropolis of Kitros and Katerini, comprising the Very Reverend Archimandrite Maximos Kyritsis, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St Dionysios in Olympus, the Very Reverend Archimandrite Barnabas Leontiadis, Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Kitros, the Reverend Protopresbyter Fr. Angelos Giannikis and the Archdeacon Fr. Panteleimon Tsarapatsanis as well as Monk Marcellus from the Holy Monastery of St Anthony in Arizona, America, in the Missionary Centre of Kidamal in the Iriga district, group baptism took place in the outdoor baptistery of the Holy Church of Ss Andronikos and Athanasia.
Specifically, 165 natives were baptized, among whom were many Masai from the surrounding areas. These are moments that remind us of the first Christian years, when you are faced with the enthusiasm and the appeal of faith of those being baptized reflected in their illumined faces. After the baptisms which lasted for four hours, a rich outdoor lunch was hosted for our four hundred brothers and sisters present.
On 30th April, Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, and with the blessing of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, the enthronement of His Grace Agathonikos Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania took place at the Holy Church of St Dimitrios in the Hellenic Community of Iriga. The Enthronement took place after the end of the Divine Liturgy and was officiated by the Caretaker of the Diocese, His Eminence Metropolitan Dimitrios of Irinopolis, who read the Greeting of His Beatitude and addressed the newly-enthrone Bishop.
The Enthronement Address of His Grace Agathonikos followed, as follows:
Your Eminence Dimitrios, Metropolitan of Irinopolis, Pious Priests and Deacons, Beloved people of God of our Diocese, Dear friends, brothers and sisters. With great faith and love I gave myself to the Divine will, obeying the call of His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa and the Holy Synod of our Patriarchate, who elected me as your Hierarch and Shepherd and I came gladly to live with you to convey to you the peace, joy and power of the Gospel of our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ and also to minister to you.
I understand how sacred and heavy the work that I am undertaking is, from the moment that I ascend the steps of the Sacred Throne, because I realize well the priceless value that the soul of every human being has and that I will answer for each one of the day of judgment. A Bishop’s Throne is not a Throne of glory, but a form of the Cross, and he who ascends its steps must always be prepared to drink of the Cup of Martyrdom which the Lord drank. St Ignatios the God-bearer and great Saint and Apostolic Father of our Church says that a Bishop stands “in type and place of Christ”. Therefore, the true Bishop has as his prototype the Crucified Christ and Golgotha as his place. Imitating Christ’s sacrifice a Bishop must offer himself completely to all and to each one separately. This is the continuous sacred journey of the Church to every single soul, because for each person there is a special message from God, that He loved us so very much, that He gave His only-begotten Son “that all who believe in Him will not be lost, but will have life eternal” (John 3:16).
The entire essence and importance of the Church’s mission is this. That both the lord and the simple worker, the rich as well as the poor, the educated as well as the illiterate, the righteous and the sinner, each one of us, must realise that he or she is a child of God and to know that life and joy begin only when we discover in the depths of our hearts God’s peace. God’s Kingdom begins in every heart. Are you at peace with God? You have the strength and the courage to face Him and to call Him “Father”. Do you have all the worldly goods, but no peace with God? Then between you and Him there is raised the barrier of sin.
I came to serve you and to give you my heart. Please give me your hearts too, so that we can all become one. Because this is the will of God for His Church, “that we may all be one” (John 17:21). I address our priests and I assure them that I will be beside them as a caring father, willing advisor, guide and comforter, but also a conscientious overseer of the precise and faithful and holy fulfillment of our duties to the faithful people. The life of a priest must call and not turn away; must open doors and not close them. It is better to have ten priests who affirm through their lives the presence of God, rather than one hundred who refute it. Priests who embrace the faithful with their fervent and caring prayer, who through the example of their pure lives will lead the faithful to the peace of God. I believe that all the priests in our Diocese will be inspired by this blessed vision. Addressing all our Christian faithful, I tell you my dear and beloved children, that from today you are the subject of my prayer and my pastoral responsibility.
I want you to know, that you will find paternal love and true interest in all your problems with all the power of my soul for as long as the Lord will permit. I wish to thank wholeheartedly with deep honour and gratitude His Eminence Dimitrios Metropolitan of Irinopolis through whose hands I am enthroned today, with whom I have a long and genuine friendship from our student years and who agreed to offer the most precious and elite part of his Metropolis, so that today we can all rejoice in the creation of this new Diocese. I hope and pray, Your Eminence that God will grant you crystalline health, so that for very many years you may contribute from your pure heart your love to all of us who honour and love you.
Concluding my speech, I turn my heart and mind with gratitude to the Sacred Centre of our Patriarchate, there where the heart of all of Africa beats, in Alexandria and I kiss the Holy hand of our Father Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Theodoros II, The "Patriarch of Love", the Missionary Patriarch, to thank him once again for the love and trust which he abundantly gave me all these years as I studied under him. His great and pure Patriarchal love, fills with joy and serenity all our hearts and strengthens us in our daily struggle. He is our guide, our inspiration, our blessing and consolation at every step.
I wholeheartedly thank my respected Elder Archimandrite Maximos, His Eminence George Metropolitan of Kitrous and Katerini for the blessing of the presence of his Chancellor Archimandrite Barnabas, my dear broter Fr. Angelos Giannikis and his Archdeacon Fr. Panteleimon, dear and precious brother Fr. Markellos from the Monastery in Arizona and my friends Spyros from London, for the trouble and costs of their journey to be with us. May God bless you all. Please remember us in your prayers. Amen.
Immediately following the modest ceremony, a lunch was hosted for all present in the grounds of the Holy Church.
For the History: THE ORDINATION OF AGATHONIKOS BISHOP OF ARUSHA AND CENTRAL TANZANIA (from here)
On 11th December 2016, the Sunday of the Forefathers, His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa conducted the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy and during the service he performed the ordination of His Grace Agathonikos, Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania, at the Hοly Patriarchal Church of St. Savvas the Sanctified in Alexandria.
Participating in the Eucharistic Gathering and the ordination of His Grace were Their Eminences Metropolitans Apostolos of Militus, George of Kitrous and Katerini, Ioustinos of Nea Krini and Kalamaria, Dimitrios of Irinopolis, Niphon of Pilousion, Narkissos of Accra the Patriarchal Vicar of Alexandria and Meletios of Carthage. Also present were the Honorable Consul General of Greece in Alexandria Mr. Emmanuel Kakavelakis, the Honorable Chairman of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria Mr. Ioannis Papadopoulos, the Honorable Chairman of the Arabic speaking Community of Alexandria Mr. Fouad and other Chairmen of Societies and Associations of Hellenic Society. The Church was filled with faithful not only from Alexandria, but also by many pilgrims from various parts of Greece who traveled to be present at the ordination.
In his emotional address, His Beatitude said:
“The Didache of the Twelve Apostles exhorts: “Elect, therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not covetous, and true and approved, for they perform for you the service of prophets and teachers” (Didache 15:1). It is the ordination of such a new bishop that we celebrate today, the elected Bishop Agathonikos of the newly-established Diocese of Arusha and Central Tanzania, thereby rewarding the efforts and his diverse ministry to the Church of the Saint and Evangelist Mark.
My child Agathonikos,
You were deemed worthy by God to be honoured with the highest office of hierarch, an office about which St Ignatios the God-bearer says: “The priests indeed are good, but the High Priest is better; to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been trusted with the secrets of God. He is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church. All these have for their object the attaining to the unity of God” (To the Philadelphians 9:1).
|Photo from here|
Your elevation to the rank of Bishop is not accidental. Key participants in this are your brilliant character and your morals, your methodical hard work, your excellent Theological constitution, and your deep Ecclesiastical consciousness. You stood beside Your Patriarch and carried the burden of the Private Patriarchal Office and the Chief Secretariat of the Holy Synod. Your are a gifted and able member of the clergy, exceptionally trained, but above all you have a fervour and love for the Church of St Mark and its efforts with the African people. You were a pioneer missionary in Tanzania and for this reason our Holy Synod elected you as Bishop of the region of Arusha in that country. Do not flinch when faced by the new directive given to you by the Church of Alexandria. “Depart for I will send you far away to the Gentiles”, says the Lord (Acts 22:21). “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Serve God’s people, “become an example for believers” (1 Timothy 4:12), “a light to lighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32) and as St Gregory the Theologian says, become ”the lamp of the Church” (Epistle 41:5). The people of Africa want light, so become the light “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and. glorify your Father which is in heaven”(Matthew 5:16). Disseminate your light, the light of the Church in the missions through your sacrificial theology of contribution and hardship, but above all with love “so that they might prepare God’s people to serve. Then the body of Christ will be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Minister to the suffering African people having before you that Christ did not come to earth “for tyranny and fear and consternation…but for grace and gentleness…without force because force is not appropriate with God….he does not persecute and he does not judge” (To Diogenes, 7). And as John Chrysostomos adds: “the Bishop must be all things, to bear all the weight of others; because for those who are enraged, it is forgiveness” (Oration on Acts 60:39).
|Photo from here|
That is why, my child Agathonikos, follow the advisory words of the Didache of the Twelve Apostles “Do not hesitate to give, to not grumble when giving; for you will know who is the good paymaster of your reward. Do not turn away from him that is in want, but make your brother partaker in all things, and do not say that anything is your own. Never forsake the commandments of the Lord; but keep those things which you have received, neither adding to them nor taking away from them. (Didache 4:1-17). Preach in the depths of Africa, as St Paul Says: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2), preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2;2). “Do not give sleep to your eyes, or slumber to your eyelids or rest to you temples: until you find out a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob (Psalm 131:4-5).
Disseminate the values and the truths of the Orthodox faith and the loving Orthodox way of life, throughout Africa, the people and the cultures. Project the divine-human person of the Risen Christ, who elevated human nature and revealed its sacredness as a bearer of the image of Christ. Become the balm of love and sweeten the pain of human hearts. Give your love to the suffering African people; just one look and a compassionate word from you are enough to wipe away the tears of their pain. “Love will show the true shepherd; for love the great Shepherd was crucified”, says St John Chrysostomos (John Chrysostomos, Oration on the Priesthood, II).
Give priority to the defence of the rights of the weak, so that their honest labours are not constantly misappropriated by those skilful in injustices. Protect the people of Africa, especially the children, who are the hope of our Church and the hope of Africa. Chooses as your colleagues those who fear God so that His word may be magnified.
Do not be disappointed and do not be afraid; arm yourself with strength and patience, walk on the wild waves as Peter did, looking at Christ’s face. You have Him as your helper and guide. Him who became “the price for setting many free” (Matthew 20:28). He will hold you so that you can safely tread on the slippery paths of your hierarchal ministry. In every difficulty you must always proclaim the words of St John Chrysostomos “Glory to God in everything” and your heart will be cleared of the burdens of your hierarchal ministry and the smile of Christian joy will not leave your lips.
My dear child Agathonikos,
spread your honest hands, and “receive the favour with fear, lend to him who gave, distribute to the poor and acquire the Lord as your friend, that you may stand at His right hand when He comes in glory, and you may hear His blessed voice: Enter my servant into the joy of your Lord” (Doxastikon of the Aposticha of Great and Holy Tuesday and Matthew 25:23).
After the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy a festive meal was hosted for all present. His Beatitude then received the guest Hierarchs from Greece and the group of pilgrims at the Patriarchal Mansion, where they had the opportunity of a conducted tour of the museums of the Patriarchate, and he gave them all commemorative gifts and blessings.
Curriculum Vitae of Agathonikos Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania
Father Agathonikos (Nikolaidis) the Bishop of Arusha and Central Tanzania was born in Giannitsa (in Greece) in 1964. He holds a Degree from the Educational Academy in Florina and from the Theological Faculty of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki. He has been a monk of the Holy Monastery of St. Dionysios of Olympos since 1986. He served as Preacher in the Metropolises of Florina and Kitrous, and from 2004 to 2011 he served in various Missionary parts of Africa, following a blessing by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, then as Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Tanzania.
In December 2013 following an invitation from His Beatitude, he went to Alexandria where he served as Dean of the Saint Athanasios Patriarchal Academy, as Codicographer and Director of the Private Office of His Beatitude.
On 17th December 2016 by proposal of His Beatitude the Patriarch, he was unanimously elected as Bishop of the newly-established Diocese of Arusha and Central Tanzania, and was ordained by His Beatitude on 11th December 2016 at the Holy Patriarchal Church of St Savvas in Alexandria.
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