VISIT OF THE I.A.O SECRETARIAT TO AUSTRALIA.
The I.A.O Secretariat realised a visit to Australia last March of 2003. From the I.A.O International Secretariat, deputies from Greece, Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, participated in this visit. The entire I.A.O, as well as the Secretariat, considers the realisation of this visit to Australia of particular importance as it presented the Orthodox, in faith, deputies of the State Parliaments in Melbourne and Sydney and the Federal Parliament in Canberra, the opportunity to be informed of the objectives and activities of the I.A.O, in its decennial course. In addition, this visit, gave the opportunity to the broader scientific society of this continent to familiarise with the reflections developed in the gulfs of the I.A.O activities. The Orthodox communities had the opportunity to be informed of the I.A.O activities, to present their reflections on the international political developments and on the responsibility of the citizens of the world, who reside and develop their living activities under the cultural influence of the Orthodox tradition.
Commemorative photograph of the I.A.O delegation with members of the Parliament of Australia at the entrance of the State.
The members of the I.A.O Secretariat had the opportunity to contact the political leadership of Australia, the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr John Howard, the President of the Major Opposition Party, Mr. Simon Creen, the Chairmen of the State Parliaments and the Federal Parliament, Chairmen of Parliamentary Committees, exchange with them views on the international political situation and pinpoint the need for peace, security and international law and order.
During their visit in the city of Melbourne, the members of the I.A.O Secretariat had the opportunity to attend a seminar on the subject: “The Cultural Aspect of Orthodoxy”
In this seminar, interventions were presented by:
1. Prof. Α.Μ.Τamis, La Trobe University
Subject: Synopsis of the Australian Orthodoxy
2. Dr. Adrian Jones, La Trobe University
Subject: Church and State: a historical perspective
3. Prof. Mary Kalanzis,RMIT University
Subject: Orthodoxy in a Cultural Diverse Society
4. Prof. Treavour Batrouny, RMIT University
Subject: The Orthodoxy in Australia some issues
5. Dr. Oleg A. Donskikh, Monash University
Subject: Orthodoxy and the Problems of Inner Freedom
6. Dr. Rowen Ireland, La Trobe University
Subject: Religion and Democracy in a Multicultural Society
7. Dr. Jonathan Clarke, Monash University
Subject: The Cultural dimension of Orthodoxy in relation to Language and Literature
8. Mr. Stathis Tsangalidis, La Trobe University
Subject: The Relationship between: Orthodoxy, Culture and Politics.
The Orthodox communities of Australia fruitfully contributed in the realisation of this visit with the excellent hospitality they provided the members of the I.A.O Secretariat with.
The success of this visit was decisively based, on the contribution of the deputy of New South Wales, Mr. James Samios, who was responsible for the political organisation of this visit, as well as, University La Trobe of Melbourne, with professor Mr. Anastasios Tamis and his collaborator, Mr. Stavros Petrou, who had the organisational responsibility.
The initiative of this visit resulted in the programmed accession and participation of the Orthodox deputies of Australia in the I.A.O, who are participating in this year’s Annual General Assembly, in Vilnius. Deputies, Orthodox in faith, from Latin America will also participate for the first time, in the Annual General Assembly.
The visit to Australia was realized, roughly 20 days before the USA attack in Iraq. The members of the I.A.O Secretariat, during their stay in Australia, expressed their concern for the imminent then attack, with the following text, which was sent in all directions: “The I.A.O expresses its concern for the persistence of the American President to declare war in Iraq, against opposition in a number of countries, Christian Churches and millions of people, expressed around the world. This war is conflicting with the fundamental principles of our faith, ethics and law, which all have been preserved by civilized humanity, during its historical course. In addition, it employs direct, as well as, indirect grave consequences of an enduring peace and stability in the entire world and more specifically in the wider belligerent region.
The I.A.O, calls the Council of Safety of the United Nations, to proceed to all necessary actions, in order to deter the inevitable and governments of all states, to proceed accordingly, so that they serve as a screen and put a stop to the warlike frames of mind, emanating from anywhere. Finally, calls citizens of the whole world, who believe in peace, to actively oppose materialization of threats of war “.
THE PROFILE OF THE GREEK ORTHODOXY IN AUSTRALIA
Over the last two millennia Orthodoxy has been a religious cultural and social symbol for the people of eastern European countries, the Balkans and the Levande. Orthodox Christianity as a faith and cultural legacy became fundamental for their national and cultural identity.
The expansion of Orthodoxy in Australia was result of migration of Orthodox from Greece, Balcans, Russia, East Europe and Middle East.
The official establishment of the Orthodox Church in Australia commenced in 1897 with the arrival of the Rev. Athanasios Kantopoulos, appointed in Melbourne by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in order to serve the religious and spiritual needs of all Orthodox Christians. The first Orthodox church was built in Sydney in May 1898 and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
One of the earliest public services for Greek, Romanian, Russian Orthodox worshipers conducted by the Greek Orthodox priests in the presence of Australian Parliamentarians, outside the State Parliament House of NSW, circa 1933.
Nevertheless, the first Orthodox service was taken place several years before, at Easter of 1820, off the Australian shore, on board a Russian ship, which at that time was exploring the Antarctic. In early 20th century, many refuges from Russia came to Australia, because of the Russo-Japanese War (1905) and the Russian Revolution (1917). Today, their descendants are under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow.
As expected, with the arrival of Orthodox people from various countries, each ethnic group became attached to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Church from which its faithful came.
In 1922, the first regular Russian Orthodox priest arrived in Australia, and four years later the first Russian church, dedicated to Saint Nicolas, was built in Brisbein.
The Greek Orthodox Church, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople since 1924, for regulatory, historical and demographic reasons (Greek Orthodox comprise almost 64% of the total number of the Orthodox Christians in Australia), Keeps the coordinated role among all Orthodox ethnic groups in Australia, with its Archbishop presiding over commonly organized ecclesiastical matters.
According to the 2001 Census and following cross tabulations involving the variable of ancestry, place of origin and language, it was established that the actual number of Orthodox followers in Australia is approximately 760,000 (4.3% of the total population).
Over the last one hundred years a total of 213 churches organized by Orthodox Communities, Orthodox Parishes and other, non-canonical Orthodox ecclesiastic entities (Old Calendarists, The Autocephalous Church of America and Australia) were established in Australia.
This text is based upon the iweb pages www.rocor.org.au and and with the help of La Trobe professor mr. Anastasios Tamis, Director of the National Center of Greek Studies and Research.