CULTURE

Patriarch Vartholomaios pays a visit to the home of his childhood

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios visited his birthplace on Imvros this summer, August 22-25. Clearly moved, he trod once again the paths of Aghioi Theodori, the village where he was born and raised, and stood in front of the ruined school where he first learned to read and write. And he spoke with a few Greeks, of whom only 200 remain out of an original population of 8,000. Now there are 8,000 Turkish colonists, and things have changed. The patriarch stayed longest at the cemeteries in the village of Schinoudi, which has 43 Greek residents, and at Aghioi Theodori, where 64 Greeks live. Vartholomaios performed a memorial blessing at the graves of the parents and sister of Archbishop Iakovos. Everywhere he went he met with a warm welcome, with people kissing his hand and offering him bunches of basil. At Schinoudi, which used to be the biggest village on Imvros, he spent some time watching the sunset, and sang a hymn. He also gave services at the churches which, as he said, «our fathers handed down to us.» He reassured the people that «the patriarch loves all the villages of Imvros, without exception,» and he congratulated them on their courage in living an isolated life, for enduring everyday difficulties and keeping up Greek-Christian tradition. In conclusion, he said, «Some say that hope dies last; I say that hope never dies.»