Accompanied by members of the Friends of Mount Athos society, of which he is a patron, His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah, the former Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) from 2008-2012, is currently leading a nine-day pilgrimage to Cyprus with the blessing of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II (r. 2006-). The Friends of Mount Athos invited Metropolitan Jonah to lead this year’s pilgrimage, hosted by the society, which bears the theme “Byzantine and Crusader Cyprus”, and lasts from 22-30 October. Approximately 40 people are participating in the pilgrimage, most of whom are British nationals.
On Sunday, 23 October 2016, at the invitation of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus, His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the beautiful church of Agia Sofia (Holy Wisdom) in Strovolos, suburban Nicosia, along with His Beatitude the Archbishop and His Grace Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria. Observing the Revised Julian calendar following the usage of the Church of Cyprus, the hierarchs with the other clergy and laity commemorated St Iakovos (James) the brother of the Lord and St. Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople (d. 877) in the Archierarchical Liturgy on the occasion of their feast days.
Following the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude the Archbishop consecrated a new school hall in Strovolos, with His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah attending the blessing along with many of the faithful members of Friends of Mount Athos and Nicosian Cypriot parishioners:
Following their con-celebration of the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, 23 October in suburban Strovolos, accompanied by several close friends, Metropolitan Jonah met privately with the Archbishop at his Archepiscopal Residence in Nicosia, the capital of the Republic of Cyprus. The Archbishop’s assistant, His Grace Bishop Gregorios of Mesaoria, was present at the meeting and warmly received His Eminence and several close friends in the Archepiscopal Throne Room. Following this, the Archbishop hosted lunch for the company in his stately residence.
His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah will remain in Cyprus with the Friends of Mount Athos until next Sunday. The group is enjoying an extended tour of the beautiful island and its magnificent ancient, Classical, and Hellenistic period Greek ruins, explore Byzantine and Crusader fortifications and sites, and visit historic village churches and monasteries. FoMA has already visited several ancient, holy monasteries and convents.
Mrs. Marilyn P. Swezey, one of the Friends of Mount Athos members who is on the pilgrimage, told me that “it is wonderful here. Cyprus is still a Christian country, dotted with little churches and monasteries everywhere, many very ancient. It’s truly a land of hidden spiritual treasures!”
I spoke with Mr. Simon Jennings, the Treasurer of the society, who had this to say about Metropolitan Jonah’s pilgrimage to Cyprus with FoMA:
Vladyka is here to lead a pilgrimage to Cyprus organised by the Friends of Mount Athos, of which I am Treasurer. Some of the group have been visiting the Byzantine monuments in the occupied part of Cyprus… [O]n Sunday, Vladyka served the Divine Liturgy at the Church of Agia Sophia in the district of Strovolos (a suburb of Nicosia) with the Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos – and his assistant Bishop Gregorios. After Liturgy, Archbishop Chrysostomos blessed a new School hall. Following that, and a reception, the Archbishop received us for lunch at his residence, and entertained us very well.
Today, we drove down to see some monasteries – Agia Thekla, which is a small and very pretty women’s monastery, where there was a Russian tour group. We went on to a 14th c. church dedicated to the Holy Archangel Michael, and from there to look at the famous monastery of Stavrovouni, at least to assess the chances of getting up to it, which we may try to do tomorrow. After lunch, we went on to a small monastery again dedicated to St Michael, and from there to a new women’s monastery dedicated to the Mother of God, where we were received by the Gerondissa. She sent us with one of her workmen to guide us to Deftera, where there is a diocesan ecclesiastical store… From there we went on to Tamassos, where there is a new Russian church being constructed with the blessing of the Bishop of that diocese, who has studied in Moscow.
Tomorrow, we will visit some more monasteries… On Wednesday, we will meet up with the rest of the group to tour Nicosia, and then on to the Troodos mountains to look at the painted churches there, which are amongst the most important treasures of the Island. We will travel back to London on Sunday. Vladyka Jonah is one of the patrons of the Friends of Mount Athos.
Here are some photos of the FoMA tour of several different historic Cypriot monasteries and village churches which they have visited so far in their pilgrimage:
Here is the link to the Facebook page for Friends of Mount Athos, whose president is His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, best-selling Orthodox author and former Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at the University of Oxford (1966-2001). The Royal Patron of FoMA is His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.