In Memoriam: Archbishop Stylianos

On March 25, on the day of the Annunciation, our Father and Primate His Eminence Stylianos, Archbishop of Australia, slept in the Lord. We will not enumerate here on the many and wonderful achievements of his pastoral work in the Antipodes. This is a work for others more competent and capable than us. Nor will we deal with his rich writing and his especially unique poetic work. That is also for the relevant experts.

However, in this column of our magazine, “Lychnos”, we have a “sacred debt” to record responsibly the honest and always willing support of our late Primate in the missionary work of the Greek Orthodox Christian Society (GOCS). He was always ready to bless any new activities of our society. He blessed the initial building occupied in Newtown and the later one at Kingsgrove. He blessed the Missionary endeavours to whichever city or town we visited in Australia. He would always provide the same stereotypical answer: “I have told you. You are free to go where-ever you want. Talk to the Bishop.” He did not cease reminding those responsible for the work of the GOCS of his desire – if possible – to help create Greek Orthodox Christian Societies in other cities outside of NSW. Also, during the Divine Liturgy at the beginning of the Sunday School year, he always emphasised to the Sunday School teachers present not only the importance of the missionary teaching they were undertaking, but also the gratitude of the Church for this accomplished endeavour.

The historical visit in 1996 of His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Australia remains unforgettable to us. In the crowded Marrickville Town Hall at the celebration of 40 Years of Sunday Schools our brilliant Primate said, in honouring the work of the GOCS: “I have to confess, your All-Holiness, before their Graces the Bishops, to the eminent priests and to the rest of the people of God, that we have been made worthy by God to have in our midst fiery Christians who give their entire 24 hours to the testimony and the ministry of the faith.” We saw his paternal “concern” when we announced to him a decision, and sought his blessing, to undertake a pioneering mission by the GOCS to Indonesia. “Be careful there my children. They are fanatics.” His words are not for us to boast, but they rather compel us to examine and reflect on whether we really remain the “burning Christians”, as our late Primate wanted.

There were indeed many cases where our late Primate had shown a lively interest in the events undertaken within GOCS, and he always had something constructive to tell us, teach us, and guide us. Not only as a group but also on a personal level. It was in his contact with the youth that we witnessed his most natural, authentic and humane attributes. His visits to the Omada camps and excursions to the Sunday School picnics left indelible experiences on the Omada teenagers and the Sunday School children. He greeted the youth with his wide smile and he answered their questions with his simple but wise words, solving their uncertainties, and embracing them with his love. More recently, though he was personally unable to attend all the places he was called upon because of his illness, he never missed the annual Sunday School picnic at Centennial Park in Sydney.

So the last time we saw him and lived him for a little while, was on the long weekend of Monday 1 October 2018. His step was a little shaky, his words measured. Yet we heard him talking to the children through the loudspeaker for the last time, about God’s love, the beauty of His created nature, and the pastoral care of the Church. He sat and patiently gave a memento icon to each child standing in an endless queue. He looked at each child with a smile, with love, and they responded by smiling back as though they had known him for a long time, as if he were a large child. An old poem of his came to our memory. “The children … do not know your language nor do they know you, but they immediately smile at you and stroke you and plant a kiss. If we do not again become like children, there is no prospect of peace, and no hope of ultimate salvation just as Christ said.” (Nostalgia Parametrōn).

May the memory of His Eminence Stylianos Harkianakis Archbishop of Australia, οur Spiritual Father and Primate, be eternal.


Source: Lychnos April – May 2019