Santa Cruz, CA - On Saturday evening, December 3, 2016 His Grace Bishop Irinej arrived in California to participate in the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the election and consecration of His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute at the Graduate Theological Union as a Hierarch.
Bishop Irinej landed in San Francisco and that evening traveled with Metropolitan Nikitas to Stockton where they were welcomed by Fr. Panagiotis Sotires, Proistamenos of the Saint Basil Greek Orthodox Church, and parishioners. The anniversary celebration for Metropolitan Nikitas began on Sunday morning with Orthros Service and Fr. Panagiotis served while Metropolitan Nikitas was in the throne
During the Orthros Bishop Irinej, followed by Fr. Milutin Janjic a priest at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Cruz, came and greeted His Eminence. Metropolitan Nikitas and Bishop Irinej, together with Fr. Panagiotis and Fr. Milutin served the Divine Liturgy. The church of Saint Basil was filled with people who came from various towns in California to participate and greet Metropolitan Nikitas and Bishop Irinej.
After the Gospel, His Grace gave a sermon explaining the theme of the Gospel’s story of the healing of a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years because she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. His Grace also expressed His joy that He was able to join His Eminence in His celebration since their strong friendship and mutual brotherly love has a history of more than thirty years.
His Grace was present at the consecration of Metropolitan Nikitas as a Bishop in Constantinople in 1996. His Grace also visited His Eminence while Metropolitan Nikitas was a Metropolitan of Hong Kong and South East Asia. From His side, Metropolitan Nikitas participated in the consecration of His Grace as a Bishop in Belgrade in 2006.
The chanting in English, Greek, Serbian, and Church-Slavonic flavored the beauty of the Liturgical celebration. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas gave a short speech thanking His Grace and the congregation for joining Him in His celebration.
The Women’s Board of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute organized the banquet after the Liturgy in the church hall where the celebration continued. Bishop Irinej had an opportunity to meet and speak to parishioners from various Orthodox parishes as well as professors and benefactors of the Institute, which is the only Orthodox Christian Theological Institution west from the Mississippi River.
In the afternoon, His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas and His Grace Bishop Irinej returned to San Francisco since His Grace had to continue His journey to Australia.
All of us who attended had an opportunity to participate in this great event felt joy and happiness experiencing the beauty of Orthodox Worship and brotherly love between the Serbian and Greek Orthodox communities in America.
Article by Fr. Milutin Janjic