Archbishop Spyridon shares his smile with "The Smile of a Child"
Feb 13, 1999
Athens: Yesterday morning, His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon made a special visit to "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou" "The Smile of a Child" in the Nikaia neighborhood of Athens. "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou" is an independent philanthropic organization that addresses the growing needs of the homeless and often orphaned children of the streets of Athens.
Archbishop Spyridon, accompanied by his traveling synodia, arrived at "The Smile of a Child" at approximately 10:30 a.m. His Eminence had been requested by the Board of Trustees to celebrate an Agiasmos, a service of commencement and blessing for a new building of this growing philanthropy. A large crowd of families, children, workers, and local officials, including the Magistrate of the suburb of Nikaia, and Member of Parliament Mr. Grigoris Niotis were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Archbishop. The local clergy, led by Metropolitan Alexios of Nikaia had made all of the preparations for the Agiasmos.
Following the Blessing of the new building, Archbishop Spyridon, accompanied by the Metropolitan, local officials, guests, friends and the children of "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou" shared light refreshments and an opportunity for fellowship.
In his remarks, (prepared text attached), the Archbishop proposed that a sister relationship between "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou" and St. Basil's Academy be developed for the benefit and spiritual enhancement of both institutions. This proposal was greeted with great enthusiasm by all.
Following the remarks of His Eminence, the President of the Archdiocesan Council, Mr. John Catsimatidis, spoke with great emotion and love for the work of "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou." He noted that it was the sixth birthday of his son, and that in honor of the occasion and to assist the work of "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou", he would contribute the sum of $5,000 per year to a child of similar age to his own, until their 18th birthday, in order to meet the needs of their education. This announcement was greeted with great joy and applause. Mr. Catsimatidis also vowed to seek other capable families in America to take up such a sponsorship of the children of "To Hamogelo Tou Paidiou", in order to provide for their future.
Immediately afterwards, Archbishop Spyridon was the guest of honor at a luncheon by the leading publishers in the newspaper industry of Athens. In the evening, His Eminence hosted a reception for the nearly fifty journalists who have covered his first official visit to the Hellenic Republic.
Tomorrow morning, the Archbishop will celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of Athens and All Greece, the Metropolis Cathedral of the Annunciation. The Divine Liturgy will be broadcast throughout all Greece live on television.
Following the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Spyridon will be hosted at a luncheon given in his honor by His Beatitude Archbishop Christodoulos, Primate of the Church of Greece.
In the evening, American Ambassador Nicholas Burns will host a reception in honor of the Archbishop. His Eminence and the Ambassador will share a private supper afterwards at the Ambassador's residence.
REMARKS OF HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP SPYRIDON AT THE ENGAINIA OF "TO HAMOGELOU TOU PAIDIOU" ATHENS
I am deeply happy that I am able to be here today with you and with the Children of "To Hamogelo tou Paidiou." There are few joys in life that approach this extraordinary experience: to see the smile of a child, to hear a child laugh with the freedom and joy of one who knows not the dark and complex cares of the world. Christ reminds us repeatedly in the Holy Gospel of how children are to be an example for us to follow toward our salvation. Our Lord and Savior speaks to the hearts of all human beings in reminding us that we must be as children, we must emulate their purity, innocence and honesty.
Unfortunately, our hard-edged society has transformed children and youth into a market, a group of consumers to which adults are pressed to offer goods and services. Contemporary society has made children an economic commodity to be manipulated and exploited. The consumer society has transformed childhood itself into something that seeks to emulate adult needs, desires and wants. The result of this terrible state of affairs is evident in the angst and depression that has infected children in the global culture. Children are forced to grow up faster than they should, faster than their natural maturation would dictate.
The very same society, the very same impulse that drives this capitalist impulse to turn everything into a commercial and every person into a slave of phantom desires has hardened the hearts of adults as well. The definition of a well functioning person must always also include a deep and holy appreciation of one's fellow human beings. To be fully respectful of our personhood, we must respect and honor the personhood of each and every other human being. This is a difficult commandment to follow of course. But is cannot, it must not be made difficult for us to respect the personhood of the most fragile amongst us, our children. We must surely not loose our innate human ability to love and cherish children who are the true owners of the future.
These children, all children, are the inheritors of the best of what we are and the worst of what we are. As Orthodox Christians, we are called by our Holy and Sacred Tradition to cherish children and to act as stewards of the inheritance promised to all humanity through the power and glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, we must also never forget that the children of our brothers and sisters who for whatever reason find themselves unable to care for their children, these children must be taken up and embraced in the love and care of the Church. We must, each and every one of us, demonstrate the love that Christ Himself has shown for us to those children who are in tangible need of love and support.
In the United States, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has established an institution whose mission is the care and concern of children with needs that are greater than the resources of individual families. St. Basil Academy is a venerable institution of the Holy Archdiocese of America that has cared for the children of Orthodox Christians with special needs. It is a loving, Orthodox environment that has sought to care not for others children, but for our children.
Standing here, I see the faces and smiles of children who are "ours" as well. The love we teach and preach as Orthodox Christians extends to the hearts and minds of all Orthodox children. I gaze upon this fine institution, its children and the adults who sacrifice so much to care for these children and feel how much the Greek people love and care for children, indeed for all who need that extra measure of love and support.
However, as Orthodox Christians, we also need to help and support one another. We need to share not only our resources but also our joys. And as there is no joy greater that the smile and laugh of a secure child, no greater feeling than to be embraced by the unconditional love of a child, I wish to offer our support and care to this fine institution. It is my humble wish that our St. Basil's Academy and "Hamogelo tou Paidiou" be joined in the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Trinity. To that end, I propose that these two institutions be joined as sister institutions. I propose and will extend every support possible to both institutions that they may share with one another their experience and support.
Christ has said that as we behave to toward those who are least amongst us, so too will we be treated by God at the final judgement. Surely there can be not greater demonstration of our love for the Lord than to love those whom the God-Man Himself embraced when He walked upon the Earth.
I trust that the Lord will continue to embrace this wonderful institution with His abundant blessings and love. I pray that He will multiply every good thing for all that live and work here. I thank you all for the opportunity to be here with you today.