August 10, 2023

A Previously Unknown Photo of Saint Nektarios Has Been Published - The Tragic Story Behind the Rare Photo

A previously unknown photo of Saint Nektarios has been brought to light by the website Αγιορειτική Φωτοθήκη (Hagiorite Gallery). The photo shows Saint Nektarios as the Metropolitan of Pentapolis (1889-1890) standing next to the seated Patriarch of Alexandria Sophronios IV (1798-1899).

Under the patronage of Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria, Nektarios went to Athens from Chios to study in 1882; and upon completion of his studies in 1885 he went to serve under the Patriarch in Egypt.

Saint Nektarios was ordained to the priesthood by Patriarch Sophronios IV on March 23rd 1886 in the Patriarchal Church of Saint Savvas. The same year he was awarded with the office of Archimandrite by the Metropolitan of Nubia as mandated by Patriarch Sophronios IV.

On the 15th of January in 1889, the titular Metropolitan Neilos of Pentapolis reposed and the Patriarch decided to elevate Archimandrite Nektarios to Metropolitan of Pentapolis.

The relationship between the two hierarchs will break when Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria, influenced by the envy and slanderous accusations against Metropolitan Nektarios, took the decision to suspend him on May 3, 1890.

The following communication text of the Patriarch certifies the permissible functions of Nektarios after this decision:

The Metropolitan of Pentapolis Mr. Nektarios is retiring from the management of the Patriarchal Office in Cairo, as well as from Patriarchal Representation and ecclesiastical administration.

His Holiness is allowed, if he wishes, to live in the Patriarchate of Cairo, in the room of his dormitory, to study and write, taking part of food at the common table after the priests.

His Holiness is also allowed to perform high priestly sacred functions, whenever he is invited for the crowning of a couple, baptisms, funerals, memorial services and ceremonial feasts.

It is forbidden to pass to towns and cities of the throne for any reason, including to ancient Cairo, without the Sovereign's permission.

In Cairo on May 3, 1890

+ Sophronios of Alexandria

After his suspension, the former Metropolitan of Pentapolis was stripped of all ecclesiastical authority. His liturgical duties are limited only to sacramental acts, but only by invitation of the faithful concerned. In fact, he must remain confined in his cell, since he is prohibited from almost any movement. Indirect proof that they did not pay him wages for his subsistence is seen in the explicit provision for his subsistence.

A second communication from Sophronios, dated around two months later on July 11, 1890, appears to be the Saint's definitive dismissal from Egypt:

The Metropolitan of Pentapolis, Nektarios Kephalas, by communication dated May 3, 1890, ceased as being the director of the Patriarchal Office in Cairo, as well as Patriarchal Representation and ecclesiastical administration, and was left free to live, if he wished, in the Patriarchate, to be fed there and to execute any high priestly sacred service that he was invited to by Christians. But because the need for a Director of the Patriarchal Office and a Patriarchal Commissioner was felt, the invitation and therefore the further residence of his Holiness in Egypt becomes entirely superfluous, therefore by the present Patriarchal communication his Holiness is invited to leave our Patriarchal Throne and to depart, wherever he pleases. We have placed at his disposal the attached Patriarchal discharge letter as well as his necessary traveling expenses of one thousand francs. We declare that all the bills of his management have been paid and all salaries will be paid up to the time when it appears he is able to receive wages, so nothing else is owed or has been received except from our Patriarchal Throne.

In Alexandria on July 11, 1890

+ Sophronios of Alexandria

In accordance with the Patriarchate’s command, then, he left Egypt, homeless and left hanging in mid-air ecclesiastically, to search for some position in Athens. There he did not attempt to find for himself some enviable ecclesiastical position: though a Metropolitan, he applied to become a simple preacher in an attempt to secure his daily bread.

In the years after his dismissal, the unresentful Nektarios did not even cease from communication with his persecutor, Patriarch Sophronios, sending him the books which he published. Five of the Saint’s letters to the Patriarch are dated between August 1893 and April 1894, opening this period of his life to us. In the first of these, he asks the Patriarch to be accepting of his good disposition, and to forgive him his many sins, and whatever in particular he did to embitter him, while at the same he extends his forgiveness to those who had embittered him. “Since it is required that we first forgive the sins of others, I have already forgiven all, and pray for those who sinned against me.” In the third letter, dated 11 November 1893, he asks the Patriarch if he might permit him, “an extended stay in the Patriarchal See near the library, or at the Patriarchate, or even at Saint Georges” since his work as a preacher in Fthiotida left him no time for study and writing. Though he received no response to this request, in March of 1894 he sent a letter to the Patriarch, greeting him on account of his Name Day. In this same letter he also informed the Patriarch of the happy news concerning his appointment as principal of the Rizareio School, asking him to pray for the school’s success and that he might be able to fulfill his new, lofty duties.  It would seem that Patriarch Sophronios responded warmly to this letter since Saint Nektarios sent another, even warmer letter back to the Patriarch in April of 1894.

Sadly, this attempt at reconciliation was completely overturned. Events turned suddenly, and without cause, which hurt Nektarios deeply. His enemies in the Patriarchal court were in no mood to forgive and they renewed the accusations against him.

The sixth and final letter which Saint Nektarios sends to Patriarch Sophronios upon being informed of the renewal of false accusations against him is indeed moving.  He neither protests the accusations, nor makes threats, nor even reviles.  He does not even complain about the unfounded accusations which lead to his being exiled from Egypt for being some sort of immoral revolutionary.  Instead, he asks: “What ecclesiastical court has tried and condemned me?  Where are their records?  Where are the witnesses?  Where is corpus delicti? Upon what grounds are the accusations against me, on account of which I have already been sentenced to moral death, supported?  What great evil have I done either to You, Your All-Holiness, or to those of the Patriarchal court, that warrant being put to death?  Why are you so enraged with me that your wrath has followed me such a distance seeking my complete destruction?” Then, calling on God as his witness, he says that he had never taken in mind to do anything evil to another human being, describing himself as a lover and worker of the good alone:  “I have sought to do solely what is good all my life, and of this good I was both a lover and a worker.”

It would not be until September 15th 1998 that the Patriarchate of Alexandria would lift the suspension against Saint Nektarios:

Alexandria 15th September 1998

The Holy Spirit has enlightened the gathered members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, under the leadership of H.B. Petros VII, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, more than a century since Saint Nektarios, the great Teacher and Father of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church was expelled from the Church of Alexandria, to reach the following decision:

Taking into account the resolution of the Church to rank Saint Nektarios amongst the saints because of his innumerable miracles and his acceptance within the religious conscience of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, we appeal to the mercy of the ever-philanthropic God.

We hereby restore the ecclesiastical order of the Saint of our Century, Saint Nektarios, and grant to him all due credits and honors. We beseech Saint Nektarios to forgive both us, unworthy as we are, and our predecessors, our brothers of the Throne of Alexandria, for opposition to the Saint and for all which, due to human weakness or error, our Holy Father, Bishop of Pentapolis, Saint Nektarios, suffered.

By the Grace of God
Pope and Patriarch
of Alexandria and All Africa

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