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June 3, 2023

Encyclical for Pentecost and the Arrival of the Relic of Saint Polycarp in Nafpaktos

Beloved children in the Lord,

Today we celebrate the great day of Pentecost, on which the Holy Spirit came to the holy Apostles and made them glorious members of His Body, which is why the Church is the Body of Christ, while the Apostles became members of the Body of Christ.

This is indeed a great day, during which we celebrate the mystery of the Triune God, as Christ revealed to us. The Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - have one essence, one energy, one nature, but they are Three Persons. In the Divine Liturgy we sing that we worship "Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity, one in essence and inseparable."

The holy Apostles blessed the Christians, baptized them, imparted to them the Body and Blood of Christ for their sanctification. However, because the first Christians were multiplying, therefore the holy Apostles ordained other Bishops, who are their successors, so that the Christians would be blessed and sanctified.

The successors of the holy Apostles are called Apostolic Fathers. They received the Grace of God and sanctify the Christians, and they passed on the High Priesthood to their successors, so that the fullness of the Church is supported and increased. This is called Apostolic Succession, which in the Orthodox Church is uninterrupted.

When we speak of apostolic succession, we mean, on the one hand, the whole truth about God, and on the other hand, the uninterrupted series of ordinations until today. These two characteristics apply to the Orthodox Bishops in our time. Of course, when these Orthodox criteria of apostolic tradition and succession are undermined, there is no transmission of apostolic succession.

Among the Apostolic Fathers, the successors of the Disciples and Apostles of Christ, is included Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who was a disciple of the Apostles, especially of the Apostle and Evangelist John, and settled as Bishop in Smyrna of Asia Minor where he made a rich offering in the early Church. He was called the teacher of all Asia and the father of Christians. Epistles of Saint Polycarp and the Martyrology of Saint Polycarp are preserved, in which his martyrdom and his action as a Bishop are recorded.

In our Province and indeed in the Sacred Monastery of Ambelakiotissa we had the blessing of having the right hand of Saint Polycarp with which he celebrated the Holy Mysteries, baptized, ordained, celebrated the Divine Liturgy, since by the Grace of God he celebrated the Holy Mysteries through it.

As you know, there has always been a sacred and blessed custom to transfer to Nafpaktos the sacred relic of the hand of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. This was a matter of joy and blessing for the entire region of Nafpaktos. In fact, our elders spoke of many incidents of healings, treatments and interventions of divine Grace through the holy hand of Saint Polycarp.

Sacred relics are honored by our Church and revered by devout Christians, since the bodies of the saints become temples of the living God, living altars of God, because of the divine Grace that dwells in them. This is how their miraculous energy is explained. Through them it is proved that God is alive, but also that He is the God of the living. This also applies to the relic of the right hand of Saint Polycarp.

However, since the year 2013 (Wednesday, March 13) when the blessed relic of the hand of Saint Polycarp was stolen from the Sacred Monastery, we fell into great sorrow and were deprived of this blessing. All procedures were initiated to find those who stripped us of the sacred relic, and to return it to its place of residence. After many efforts it was discovered who stole it, but unfortunately they left our country and were not arrested to return this great treasure, which was revered for centuries, even by the conquerors from time to time.

Our prayers were fervent to God for the sacred relic to be returned to the Sacred Monastery of Ambelakiotissa, we made entreaties and supplications to God and our Saint, an apolytikion was also composed which was chanted in all the Sacred Temples, since that sad day of it being stolen and to this day it is chanted, and we await the return of this sacred treasure.

However, God took pity on us and sent us a fragment of the hand of Saint Polycarp, from the occasional removal of the parts of the sacred relic, and with the special joy of the whole Province, a special service took place at the Sacred Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos Ambelakiotissa on Sunday the 14th of July 2019.

Subsequently, however, the coronavirus pandemic did not allow the transfer of the fragment of the hand of Saint Polycarp to Nafpaktos to be completely satisfied. I say completely, because the sacred relic was transferred from time to time to our Province.

Because normality has returned to social and ecclesiastical life, this is why we decided this year that the fragment of the sacred relic of the hand of Saint Polycarp should come to Nafpaktos with a complete reception for the blessing of all of us.

This will take place on Saturday and Sunday of All Saints, that is, June 11th. We will receive the sacred relic on Saturday, June 10, at 18:30 at the Metropolitan Church of Saint Demetrios in Nafpaktos, a Hierarchical Vespers will be held, and the next day, All Saints Sunday, there will be a Trihierarchical Divine Liturgy to praise the Triune God and to honor our Saint.

The program has been posted in the Sacred Temples and on the website of the Sacred Metropolis as well as in the local Media.

I am asking you all to come and receive God's blessing through the intercessions of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, the Patron of our entire Province.

I pray that the Grace of the Triune God, which comes from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, will illuminate, bless and sanctify you. May your years be many and sanctified.

With paternal blessings,



Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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