His Eminence Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia made his first archpastoral visit to Bergen on the weekend of October 28-29, 2017 to preside over the establishment of the parish of the Holy and Glorious Holy Martyr Chrysostom of Smyrna, which will serve the spiritual needs of the Orthodox Christian faithful living in the Norwegian city of Bergen and the greater Hordaland area.
The new parish in Bergen is the fifth new parish to be established by the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s missionary eparchy in Scandinavia, following the founding of the parishes of St. Cleopas the Apostle in Kalmar, the Entrance of the Theotokos in Borås, Sts. Constantine and Helen in Jönköping, and St. Nectarios in Stavanger, as well as the St. Nicholas Hermitage in Rättvik.
Metropolitan Cleopas arrived at Bergen Airport from Stockholm on the evening of Saturday, October 28, 2017, where he was received by the V. Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Alexander Loukatos, parish priest of the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Oslo.
On Sunday, October 29, 2017, the Archieratical Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Russian Church of the Epiphany in Bergen, presided over by Metropolitan Cleopas, who was assisted by Rev. Loukatos, the local Russian parish priest, Rev. Presbyter Fr. Dmytro Ostanin, and the Rev. Presbyter Fr. Theodor Svane of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, who also serves as a military chaplain of the Royal Norwegian Navy.
Following the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Metropolitan announced the formation of the new parish of St. Chrysostom Metropolitan of Smyrna the Holy Martyr, and presented the members of the parish council with their letters of appointment, while wishing them every success and strength from above in their new duties.
In his sermon, Metropolitan Cleopas pointed out reasons that inspired him to dedicate the new parish to the blessed memory of St. Chrysostom, placing special emphasis on the mentality of the Christian struggle, unwavering faith, and forbearance present in the martyrdom of this modern-day saint – virtues which should inspire all Christians. The Metropolitan also spoke about the unforgettable homelands of Asia Minor, from where he himself hails from his father’s lineage.
Metropolitan Cleopas expressed his enthusiasm and how touched he was over the presence of so many Greek Orthodox faithful in the church – many of whom traveled for hours together with their families to attend the service, while also praising the tireless pastoral care exhibited by Fr. Alexander, who is visiting Bergen to celebrate holy services for the fifth time.
He also thanked the Russian parish priest Rev. Ostanin, who made his parish available for the celebration of the Archieratical Divine Litugy, with many Russian Orthodox faithful on hand to attend services as well.
Accompanying the Metropolitan were Mrs. Kyriaki Papadopoulou Samuelsen, legal adviser to the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Oslo, along with Messrs. Panagiotis Pavlos and Cosmas Plakou, chanters at the aforementioned parish.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Greek, English, Russian, and Norwegian, with the hymns being chanted by Mr. Panagiotis Pavlos, head chanter of the Metropolitan Church in Oslo, aided by Mr. Cosmas Plakou and members of the Russian parish’s choir, thus promoting the ecumenical dimensions of Orthodox Christianity and the spirit of collaboration that characterizes the Orthodox Christian faithful in Scandinavia, considering that Orthodox faithful from 13 nations were on hand to join in common prayer at the Divine Liturgy.
Rev. Loukatos thanked Metropolitan Cleopas on behalf of the parish council of Bergen for being the first prelate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to visit the area, while noting how pleased he was that this new parish was established in such a short time, and offered Metropolitan Cleopas a bishop’s medallion as a gift for his nameday.
Following the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Cleopas blessed the youth of both parishes, offering them an icon as a blessing, and sat down to a luncheon that was offered on site.
Afterwards, the Metropolitan and his associates attended an event organized by the Hellenic-Norwegian Association of Bergen, following the kind invitation of the latter. Mr. Antonios Trypodianos, President of the aforementioned association, welcomed Metropolitan Cleopas and his associates and spoke about how touched the local members were over his presence at their event, which was dedicated to the Greek National Day of October 28, 1940.
The Metropolitan subsequently congratulated Mr. Trypodianos and his aides for the activities being undertaken by the association and offered him a copy of his study on St. Nectarios of Pentapolis. Afterwards, he offered an icon of St. Chrysostom of Smyrna the Holy Martry, which was painted and offered by iconographer Mr. Michail Androutsos of Ioannina to the two pioneering members of the newly founded parish, parish council member Mr. Vasilios Balantanis and his wife Mrs. Merete Karlsen, who serves as secretary of the aforementioned association.
The Metropolitan also encouraged all those in attendance to maintain the excellent cooperation and mutual solidarity exhibited between the parish and the association for the benefit of the local Community and particularly the youth.
During the event, Metropolitan Cleopas also had an opportunity to enjoy the delicacies offered by the members of the association and personally greet prominent Greek Scandinavians from the area.
On the evening of Sunday, October 29, 2017, the members of the new parish council in Bergen offered a dinner in honor of Metropolitan Cleopas, which was also attended by his entourage and Revs. Ostanin and Svane.
The next day, Monday, October 30, 2017, Metropolitan Cleopas flew to Trondheim, Norway together with Rev. Loukatos, following an invitation by the Norwegian division of the World Council of Churches, to attend events organized by the Lutheran Church of Norway marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
That same afternoon, the Metropolitan presided over the Supplication Service chanted in honor of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Cleopas (of the Seventy) at the Russian Parish of St. Anna. The service was officiated by Rev. Loukatos and the Rev. Presbyter Fr. Aleksander Volokhan.
Metropolitan Cleopas chose to celebrate his nameday in Trondheim, where he had the opportunity to personally meet the Greek Orthodox faithful of the area and discuss matters of general interest with them in a warm and friendly setting at the reception that followed in the church hall.
On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, as part of the framework of events organized by the Lutheran Church of Norway commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Metropolitan Cleopas delivered an introduction in English on “Orthodox and Protestant Dialogue – Historical and Present Perspectives” at the Bakke Kirke church. In his address, he spoke about the historic relationship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Lutheran Church based on the correspondence established with the Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople from 1574 onwards, and the dialogue taking place between Christian denominations on modern issues such as the environment, refugees, migration, modern forms of slavery, etc.
That same afternoon, Metropolitan Cleopas visited the Nidaros Cathedral together with Rev. Loukatos and Ms. Carolina Alevras, a parish council member and treasurer of the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation in Oslo, to attend an event organized by the Lutheran Church of Norway for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This event was also attended by HRH King Harald of Norway and was aired live by Norwegian state broadcaster NRK. Afterwards, they attended the reception that followed, with King Harald on hand, where the President of the Norwegian Parliament H.E. Mr. Olemic Thommessen spoke regarding the commemoration of Reformation’s 500th anniversary.