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History of the Church in Australia

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Immigration by Greeks to Australia began in the middle of the nineteenth century. On the 29th May 1898, the foundations of the first Greek Orthodox Church, the Holy Trinity, were laid.

The first priest to serve the religious needs of the Greek Orthodox in Sydney and Melbourne was Archimandrite Dorotheos Bakaliaros (c. 1896). In March 1924, the Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand was established under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The first Metropolitan of the new province of the Ecumenical Thronos was Christoforos (Knitis) of Serres. In 1929 Metropolitan Christoforos returned to his homeland, Samos. He died on the 7th August, 1959.

By 1927 there were more than 10000 Greeks residing in Australia. Greek Orthodox Communities were established in the cities of Perth, Brisbane, Port Pirie and Darwin. However, the only communities with churches were those of Sydney, Melbourne and Port Pirie. In 1931 Timotheos (Evangelinidis) was elected as the second Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand, and arrived in Australia on the 28th January 1932. He presided over the Church of Australia and New Zealand until 1947 when he was elected Metropolitan of Rhodes.

On the 22nd April of that year Theophylactos (Papathanasopoulos) was elected as the third Metropolitan. On the 2nd August 1958, Metropolitan Theophylactos was Killed in a car accident. In February 1959 the Assistant Bishop of the Archdiocese of America, Bishop Ezekiel (Tsoukalas) of Nazianzos was elected Metropolitan of Australia. He arrived in Sydney on the 27th April, 1959.

On the 1st September 1959 the Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand was elevated to Archdiocese and Metropolitan Ezekiel to Archbishop. The steep increase in migration created new needs and problems. In order to deal better with these, new communities were created, new churches build, schools established, Philoptochos Societies organized and special care was given to the youth and the catechesis of children.

In the large cities there are, apart from the Philoptochos Societies, centres which provide for the general philanthropic and social problems of Greeks. For a more complete organization of the Archdiocese and the communities, the Archdiocese has held eight Clergy-Laity Congresses, the last of which took place in January 1998. In January 1970 after a decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for practical reasons New Zealand was separated from the Archdiocese of Australia and formed the Metropolis of New Zealand.

In August 1974 the Ecumenical Patriarchate promoted His Eminence Archbishop Ezekiel to the Metropolis of Pisidia (who passed away in Athens July 1987), and on the 3rd February 1975 in his place the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate unanimously elected His Eminence Metropolitan of Miletoupolis Stylianos (Harkianakis), lecturer at the University of Thessaloniki, as the new Archbishop of Australia. Archbishop Stylianos arrived in Sydney on the 15th April 1975 and was officially enthroned on Lazarus Saturday on the 26th April 1975.

The new Archbishop, respecting the work of his predecessor in erecting churches and other benevolent institutions, took on as one of his special concerns the social and cultural development of his flock with the systematic cultivation and promotion of the spiritual treasure of Greek Orthodox Tradition.

In order to achieve this, he created closer contact between Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches in Australia and with the universities of this country. Appropriate restructuring of the services of the Archdiocese took place, and the Archbishop was officially appointed to the University of Sydney to teach Orthodox theology. Apart from this he continues to be a permanent member of various Christian Theological Commissions. The establishment of new churches and other benevolent institutions continue under the inspiration of the new Archbishop, however priority is given to promotion of the spiritual and cultural treasures of the Greek Orthodox tradition. This was the aim also of the celebrations fro the 50th anniversary of the Archdiocese in 1976, which included an entire range of events with positive repercussions not only within the Greek community but in the Australian society at large.

A decisive landmark for ecclesiastical matters occurred with the 4th Clergy-Laity Congress which took place in January 1981. The importance of this historic Congress can not only be seen in the fact that the Governor-General of Australia opened its proceedings, but also in the presence, for the first time, of official representatives of the Patriarchate, as well as special representatives of the Greek Government and Australia’s Greek Ambassador.

Of equally great importance and success was the 5th Clergy-Laity Congress in Brisbane, in January 1985, the 6th in Melbourne in January 1989, the 7th in Sydney in January 1993, the 8th in Sydney in January 1998, as well the 9th again in Sydney in January 2003.

This new and blessed period of our Archdiocese characterized, amongst other things, by the ordination of over thirty new priests, the sponsoring of spiritual fathers from Mt. Athos and other spiritual people from Greece, pilgrimages of Greeks to the Holy Land and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the establishment of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Churches of Australia (SCCOCA) under the permanent presidency of the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Archbishop of Australia.

The climax of the work of our Archdiocese can be seen in the completion, after many long efforts, of the establishment of St. Andrew’s Theological College. The College curriculum is recognized as equivalent to university courses in Australia and Greece. Important too are the National youth conferences held in Melbourne 1982, Sydney 1984, Melbourne 1986 and 1989, Adelaide 1991, Brisbane 1994, Sydney 1998 and Melbourne 2001, as well as the alternate State Youth Conferences, all of which were the outcome of the resolution of the 4th Clergy-Laity Congress.

A great milestone in the life of our church and people in Australia was of course the historic Official Visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in November 1996.

During the anniversary celebrations or the year 2000, the Archdiocese took significant steps to establish relevant institutions, councils and committees as part of its ongoing efforts towards spiritual development. First of all, the Millennium Heritage Council was formed, comprising representatives of both genders from various States around Australia. Arising from that Council were the following initiatives:

a) The 200 member Millennium Choir of the Archdiocese which, together with the Children’s Choir drawn from the Orthodox Day Schools in Sydney, brought worldwide recognition to the Greek Australian community, through their splendid participation of the historic Olympic Games of Sydney 2000.

b) The pioneering Provicare Foundation (whose name derives from the “providence” of God and human “care”, so that both the divine and human aspects of the Church can be appreciated in an Orthodox manner). The highly painful and responsible concern of this Foundation will be to offer every possible assistance to the growing number of victims of alcohol and drug abuse. Among the aims of Provicare is the establishment of detoxification Centres in the largest cities of Australia, reintegration of those who suffer, as well as scientific research into the related problems “St Andrew’s Orthodox Press”, for the publications of our Theological College, as well as of our Church newspaper, which will be the mirror of our entire community in Australia, covering Greek Australian issues and projects, and for this reason will be distributed in our Churches throughout Australia free of charge. For the time being, the newspaper shall be monthly. The oldest Greek newspaper in Australia, having been established in Sydney in 1913, THE VEMA was a gift given completely freely to the Church by the prominent and industrious businessman Mr. Greg Gavrielides.

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Major events in the history of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

As early as 1820, a Russian Antarctic expedition pulled into the port of Sydney, where it remained for several months. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in all its glory by the priest-monk Dioysii at Kirribilli Point in Sydney.

The first priest to serve the needs of the Greek Orthodox in Sydney and Melbourne was Archimandrite Dorotheos Bakaliaros around 1896 AD. He inspired the Greek people celebrating the Liturgy, marriages and baptisms. The first Greek Orthodox Church was opened in May 1898 at Surry Hills, New South Wales, and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity in Melbourne.

In March 1924, the Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand was established under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Christoforos (Knitis) of Serres was the Metropolitan of this new province of the Ecumenical Throne. Metropolitan Christoforos returned to his homeland, Samos, in 1929 where he died on the 7th August, 1959.

By 1927 there were more than 10 000 Greeks living in Australia. Greek Orthodox Communities developed in Brisbane, Perth, Port Pirie and Darwin. Beyond any doubt, in all of these Communities the church was the centre of stability and unity for the new life of the migrant in Australia.

In 1931 Timotheos (Evangelinidis) was elected as the second Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand, and arrived in Australia on 26th January 1932. He presided of the Church of Australia and New Zealand until 1947, when he was elected Metropolitan of Rhodes.

Theophylactos (Papathanasopoulos) was elected as the third Metropolitan on 22nd April 1947. He died in a car accident on 2nd August 1958.

Bishop Ezekiel (Tsoukalas) of Nazianzos, the Assistant Bishop of the Archdiocese of America, was elected Metropolitan of Australia in February 1959, and took arrived in Sydney on 27th April 1959.

The Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand was elevated to Archdiocese and Metropolitan Ezekiel to Archbishop on 1st September 1959.

This was a period in history when the steep increase in Greek migration from war-torn Europe created new religious and social needs in Australia. This increase was satisfied by the creation of new communities, churches, schools, and other social facilities to care for the young and old. Today the Archdiocese has over 100 priests, 105 churches and 120 community organisations.

Eight Clergy-Laity Congresses have been held since 1961, to better organise the Archdiocese, the last took place in January 1998.

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The Clergy - Laity Congress in Sydney, 1998

In January 1970, after a decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch, New Zealand was separated from the Archdiocese of Australia and formed the Metropolis of New Zealand.

In August 1974 the Ecumenical Patriarchate promoted His Eminence Archbishop Ezekiel to the Metropolis of Pisidia (who passed away in Athens during July 1987). On 13th February 1974 the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate unanimously elected His Eminence Metropolitan of Miletoupolis Stylianos (Harkianakis), lecturer at the University of Thessaloniki, as the Archbishop of Australia. He arrived in Australia on the 15th April 1975 and was officially enthroned on Lazarus Saturday on the 26th April 1975.

The new Archbishop, respecting the work of his predecessor in erecting churches and other benevolent institutions, took on as one of his special concerns the social and cultural development of his flock with the systematic cultivation and promotion of the spiritual treasure of Greek Orthodox Tradition.

In order to achieve this, he created closer contact between Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches in Australia and with the universities of this country. Appropriate restructuring of the services of the Archdiocese took place, and the Archbishop was officially appointed to the University of Sydney to teach Orthodox theology. Apart from this, he continues to be a permanent member of various Christian Theological Commissions.

The establishment of new churches and other benevolent institutions continue under the inspiration of the new Archbishop, however priority is given to promotion of the spiritual and cultural treasures of the Greek Orthodox tradition. This was the aim also of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Archdiocese in 1976, which included an entire range of events with positive repercussions not only within the Greek community but also in the Australian society at large.

A decisive landmark for ecclesiastical matters occurred with the 4th Clergy-Laity Congress, which took place in January 1981. The importance of this historic Congress can not only be seen in the fact that the Governor-General of Australia opened its proceedings, but also in the presence, for the first time, of official representatives of the Patriarchate, as well as special representatives of the Greek Government and Australia's Greek Ambassador.

Of equally great importance and success was the 5th Clergy-Laity Congress which for the first time was held outside of Sydney, in Brisbane, in January 1985, as well as the 6th Clergy-Laity Congress which was held in Melbourne in January 1989.

In January 1993, the 7th Clergy-Laity Congress was held in Sydney, which was declared open by the Australian Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr P. Keating. The Congress was also honoured by the attendance of the representative of His All Holiness, Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia, the envoy of the Greek Government and Director of Church matters with the

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Mr G. Sioris as well as the permanent Ambassador of Greece in Australia Mr B. Zafeiropoulos accompanied by the Consuls-General Mr N. Matsis, Mr I. Kampolis and Mr S. Aliagas.

This new and blessed period of our Archdiocese characterised, amongst other things, by the ordination of over thirty new priests, and the sponsoring of spiritual fathers from Mt. Athos and other spiritual people from Greece. Other events included the annual pilgrimage of Greeks to the Holy Land and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the establishment of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Churches of Australia (S.C.C.O.C.A.) under the permanent presidency of the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Archbishop of Australia.

The climax of the work of our Archdiocese can be seen in the completion, after many long efforts, of the establishment of St. Andrew's Theological College. The College curriculum is recognised as equivalent to university courses in Australia and Greece.

Important too are the National youth conferences held in Melbourne 1982, Sydney 1984, Melbourne 1986 and 1989, Adelaide 1991, Brisbane 1994 and Sydney 1998, as well as the alternate State Youth Conferences, all of which were the outcome of the resolution of the 4th Clergy-Laity Congress.

A great milestone in the life of our church and people in Australia was of course the historic Official Visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in November 1996.

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