“I dedicate this honour to the thousands of Greeks in Australia”, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia pointed out with emotion, upon his proclamation as an Honorary Citizen of Larissa. The Proclamation Ceremony took place at the Town Hall of the city of Larissa, on Saturday, 13 May 2023, in a festive atmosphere.
Upon his arrival at the Town Hall, the Archbishop of Australia, who was accompanied by Metropolitan Ieronymos of Larissa and Tyrnavos, was received by the Mayor of Larissa, Mr. Apostolos Kalogiannis. Afterwards, to the sounds of the Philharmonic band of the Municipality of Larissa, they entered the hall of the Municipal Council, where, in the presence of political and military leaders of the Region of Thessaly and the city of Larissa, Academic Professors of the University of Thessaly, where His Eminence taught as visiting Professor of the Medical School of Larissa before his promotion as the Bishop of Christoupolis, as well as his relatives from Larissa and Crete and a large gathering of locals, the President of the Municipal Council of Larissa, Mr. Dimitrios Tachos, read the relevant decision on the Proclamation of His Eminence as an Honorary Citizen of Larissa.
The special ceremony followed, during which the Mayor Mr. Kalogiannis warmly addressed the Archbishop, praising his personality and work. “Your proclamation today as an honorary citizen of Larissa is a great honour for our city”, he underlined and continued: “It is not only the recognition of your wonderful work, it is not just the reward of a brilliant course within the Church, which we are almost certain will be more brilliant in the future. It is mainly a strong spiritual bond that connects Larissa with Australia, with the Omogeneia and the Archdiocese.
A bond capable of moving and inspiring both sides in a new path of understanding, cooperation and contribution. A bond that reduces distances, promotes tradition as a beacon for future challenges, and releases the spirit of selfless giving.” In closing, Mr. Kalogiannis spoke of “an international personality with prestige and recognition”, characterising the Archbishop of Australia as “a Larissian of the world who proves by his example that this city is just as welcoming and open as in the embrace of Orthodoxy for the people of the whole world”.
Accepting the award of the highest honour from the Mayor of Larissa, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios first expressed his great joy and emotion for the unanimous decision of the Municipal Council to declare him an Honorary Citizen. During his response address, he referred to his ties with the city of Larissa, which are old and close, noting among other things: “I am fortunate to be associated with people who live in this blessed place, my friends and relatives ‘in the flesh’, but also for years I had the good fortune to teach the Bioethics course at the Medical School of the University of Thessaly and to connect even more closely with the social, scientific and cultural development of Larissa and to find that it is a city which is living, thriving, with open horizons and perspectives that portend a hopeful future amidst the challenges which the 21st century presents, has brought itself to the world’s attention and, of course, also in our country”.
Afterwards, the Archbishop focused on an aspect of the character of the city of Larissa, which, as he discerned, also characterises the place where he himself ministers, Australia. “Australia is also a crossroads of peoples, cultures, religions and ideas”, he underlined, “which interact, sometimes clash, sometimes cross-pollinate each other and, through long-term and complex processes and ferments, eventually interweave the modern face of Australian identity and human geography in the Antipodes”.
“In a corresponding way, but certainly on a different scale, of the proportions and distances observed”, he pointed out, “the city of Larissa and the wider region in its historical wanderings, which is measured in millennia, becomes a hub where people and their stories, prosperity and decline, happiness and life’s burdens, virtues and strengths, but also passions and mistakes, cultural currents and religious traditions through perpetual osmosis and with a strange relationship, interaction, of interdependence and conflicting claims and interests, form the weft and the warp, which the loom of history will then weave into a colourful and labyrinthine artefact”.
Furthermore, His Eminence observed that both Larissa and Australia became ports and shelters for refugees from the unforgettable Homelands in bloody and turbulent historical periods. “Refugees are those migratory birds, who were expelled from their ancient ancestral homes and in the midst of the storm and the flood found shelter in various places”, he noted and added: “Among them was the hospitable Larissa, who had already experienced in her flesh, multiple times, the pain and suffering from the sword of the conquerors and could feel the pain of the refugee and the pain of the alienated. Thus, these children of Romiosini and our Patriarchate, here in the Thessalian plain, took root and planted and in harmony with the local earlier element, co-shaped the modern appearance of the city”.
Finally, the Archbishop of Australia expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Mayor of Larissa and all the members of the local Municipal Council for the honour bestowed upon him, finally noting that “your city was blessed to have a series of great Mayors, the last of which is the current Mayor, Mr. Apostolos Kalogiannis – a remarkable scientist, a wonderful family man and a genuine fighter for democracy, who with the help of his collaborators, with a high sense of duty, innovative ideas, deep knowledge, experience, close cooperation with the other bodies of the city and the Local Church, works with wisdom and determination to hand over to posterity a modern city, ready to face the challenges of the future”.