The 5th three-day hierarchical assembly was held by the Holy Clergy of the Holy Diocese of Belgium, between November 1st and 3rd, in the city of La Roche in the Ardennes.
In compliance with the necessary measures against covid-19, clergymen from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, led by Metropolitan Athenagoras, discussed the very important issue of pastoral guidance for married life.
Invited speakers were the Protopresbyters Dr. Athanasios Gikas, Professor of Pastoral at the School of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and Alexios Struve, Archieratical Vicar of the Parishes of Russian Tradition of the Holy Metropolis of France, and Dr. Anestis Keselopoulos, Emeritus Professor of the Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki.
The proceedings of the meeting began on the afternoon of November 1 with the Sanctification rite, then the greeting of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was read by Bishop Joachim of Apollonia. Patriarch Bartholomew, after congratulating the Holy Diocese for this important event, raised the issue of the crisis of marriage, which afflicts our time, and the need to articulate the Church in modern pastoral challenges.
Afterwards, Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium and Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxembourg thanked the Holy Clergy for responding to the call of the assembly, referred to the 30th anniversary of the election and enthronement of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and introduced the very important issue of how to maintain a marriage in our time.
The circle of presentations was opened by Keselopoulos, who analyzed married life in the Orthodox Church, the beginning and evolution of the sacrament of marriage in ecclesiastical history, and the situation that prevails today, not only with the traditional type of family but also with new types arising from the social changes of our times.
The second presentation of Fr. Athanasios Gikas concerned the preparation of man for the great mystery of marriage, the spiritual extensions of the subject, the essence of marriage, giving concrete examples from everyday life and its very important pastoral approach after the hierology of marriage course of the couple.
The third presentation by Fr. Alexios Struve analyzed the issue of mixed marriages, ie the conclusion of an Orthodox marriage between an Orthodox and a believer of another Christian denomination, baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, a phenomenon that prevails in the Orthodox Diaspora. Mixed marriage needs special pastoral care, with which the religious differences of the couple will not create further problems in the development and completion of the family, in the spirit of love, and the completion of the spouses.
The interesting presentations were followed by discussions in working groups and a round table, while the priests raised practical issues concerning their pastoral ministry in the three countries of the Diocese.
The participants in the assembly expressed their sympathy for the absent fathers, either due to the pandemic or for serious reasons, such as the hospitalized father Aurel Popescu, to whom heartfelt wishes were sent for a speedy recovery.
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