Parish News

Advent/Christmas, 2015

We have had a very busy summer welcoming many guests and serving the growing refugee community.
For the first time this year we were blessed with visits from four branches of the Franciscan family, a Conventual friar from Turkey, Father Dariusz Wisniewski ofm Conv. Father Jezmond Mecallef ofm Cap, two friars from the Third Order Regular both called Giuseppe and then several of our own Friar ofm.
In May the new Military Attaché to the Italian Embassy came both to Rhodes and to Kos where the remains of some of the 103 Italian soldiers murdered in Kos were discovered. A memorial will be erected to the Unknown Soldier.
The Cancer support group is meeting in the parish hall and is a great benefit to all who attend. Mr. Graziano Pelliciari came from Italy to continue his work cataloguing the plans of the buildings built in Rhodes during the Italian period and we had a visit from the German and Austrian Knights of Malta.
Two Swiss Guards, Philip and Michael, came in May and they assisted in carrying the Statue of Our Lady during the May procession.
In June we saw the nomination of the new Honorary Italian Vice Consul of Rhodes, Mr. Nikos Farmakidis. His wife Maria Laura and he have both been a great support to the Church over the years.
Rev. Bror, the pastor responsible for the Finnish Lutheran Church overseas came with his wife. We are delighted to have such good cooperation with the Lutheran Evangelical Church. We were delighted to have Father Giuseppe Fiorentini serving in Kos for a month.

We noted in July that the number of Refugees arriving from Turkey was increasing dramatically. Everyone is doing their best to cope with these people who are in great need. In July we saw and offered hospitality to a growing number of young pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem on foot. It is a very positive sign.
It was very nice to receive Miss Gizelle and her family from Haifa. She is the lay directress of the Terra Sancta School.
Msgr. Vincenzo Peroni, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, came with a friend, Don Faustino. I think they were some of the simplest and kindest guests we have ever received. Humble and generous, they left a strong impression on all who met them.
Five sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition from Cyprus came on the Feast of the Transfiguration for their yearly retreat. The theme was Consecrated Life and it was beneficial to all of us. The sisters were a great help in the monastery and the garden and we enjoyed their presence very much.
Father Wojciech Orzechowski from Poland and Father Daniel Stankiewicz from Crete joined us for a few days on Rhodes whilst on Kos Father Andrew Nackowski gave pastoral service for a month followed by Father Karol from Poland who has helped us in Kos for three years now and to whom we are very grateful.
Two priests came from England, Father Andrew Dawson from the Cathedral parish in Lancaster and Father Stephen Maloney the Vocations director from Liverpool. It was a pleasure to receive Claudio and his lovely wife Barbara from Naples. Claudio has served the Commissary of the Custody of the Holy Land for many years in Naples.
Tommy Saltini, who serves the Custody through the ATS (The Association pro Terra Sancta), joined us for a few days. We are hoping that he will find a solution for the restoration of the very dilapidated “Casa Masse,” a beautiful old building given to the friars. It was the former residence of the French Consul and the last of the benefactors, Mrs. Germaine Masse is still a regular at Holy Mass every Sunday. It would be wonderful to see the house restored to its former glory and serving the Custody by being put to good use.

The number of Refugees grew enormously in August. The harbour in Kos seemed to resemble a refugee village. One of our parishioners, Mrs. Melanie Gallego Tran offered her services as the representative for Caritas. She is out twice a day with others of the Filipino community offering, food, clothes and comfort to the endless arrivals from Turkey. She really has been marvellous and we are very proud of her. Meanwhile in Rhodes the refugees are being housed in the old abattoir by the harbour. The parish has offered as much help as is possible. The refugees arrive and stay for some weeks until their documents are processed. We never know when and how many will arrive. The sad thing is many drown in the sea, and unless the bodies are recovered we will never know how many were lost. Alas, it is the children that suffer the most.
We were delighted to receive Ilha and her mother, Ilha works in the Custodial Finance Department. Father Felino a Filipino priest working in Italy joined us for a week. Our own archbishop, his mother and sister spent three weeks with us. His sister Agni is an excellent cook. She made several traditional Greek dishes for the community and they were delicious!

In September were visited by Father Miroslaw Jasinski, and then by our own Franciscan Father Fadi Shallufi ofm for two weeks. Canon Daniel Cronin from Westminster Cathedral also paid us a visit.
The organ Festival took place in September and the concerts were very well attended. Without doubt the popularity of this event is helped by the expert journalism by Mary Papandreou who is always supportive of all our events. She is Greek Orthodox but does much to further the cause of Christian Unity which is dear to all our hearts.
I think one of the greatest surprises in my life as a priest was that of receiving the book, “The Infancy of Jesus” with a personal dedication written inside from Pope Benedict himself. It is a great treasure indeed!
We had our Canonical Visit in September. Father Jakab Varnai ofm, the Visitor General, was wonderful. He affirmed us in our mission and service and we felt renewed by his visit. Dr. Lucia Conte-Janniki who serves the Franciscan archives has written another book on the presence of the Religious Sisters who gave their lives to the people of these islands during the Italian period. The Franciscan theatre is full of life with the many groups, choirs and different acting associations who come to use it,

In October Miss Mihaela Condac came from Caritas Europa to give us a seminar on Caritas and serving our refugees. It was excellent, clear and concise and has been a big help. We have been told recently that more than half a million refugees have entered Greece this year, crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. How many have drowned, we do not know. The crossing in the summer is risky, God help those who try to cross during the winter months. The following information was given by UNHCR: “In the Aegean, we are saddened by the recent wave of deaths at sea amongst the people crossing from Turkey into Greece. 19 people have died in the past 9 days. Infants and children were amongst those who perished. Refugees we spoke to over the weekend told us that smugglers are offering discount rates for the crossing in bad weather and packing more people into the dinghies” The Lutheran communities both held concerts, the Germans in St. Francis’ church and the Finnish in the Franciscan theatre. Both were of a very high standard and pleasing to all. Her Majesty’s Ship “Defender” docked in Rhodes harbour and we were happy to assist the Anglican chaplain in laying a wreath at a short ceremony in the British military cemetery.

Father John Asimiadis came to Rhodes in November. He is a great scholar and archivist. He gave the parish council a very interesting seminar on his work and the churches in the North of Greece. He is such a nice man and a good priest. The members of the Religious Orders present in the dioceses of Athens and Rhodes met with our own Archbishop Sebastian. The day was joyful and profitable for all who attended.
In addition to the many refugees; we have an increase in numbers of the poor at the monastery door. Throughout the summer the tourists have been very generous bringing food and toiletries. ATS pro Terra Sancta responded immediately to our appeal for help and have sent funds to help us buy food during the winter months. The Custodial web site, and periodicals and newspapers of the Custody have covered the refugee crisis in the Franciscan Mission in Rhodes and Kos and we are very grateful. Throughout the refugee crisis, the local Greek community has been very generous in every way. The mayor of Rhodes, Mr. Fotis, has organised hot meals three times a day since June.
Despite the desperate economic situation in which Greece finds itself, the locals have given abundantly with what little they have on both the islands of Rhodes and Kos. Their efforts are.
And finally the free Greek language course that is offered at St. Francis Monastery by Miss Sandie is being attended by almost 50 students! Equally popular is the free Italian Course offered by Mr. Filippo. We have much to be grateful for in our parishes by the example set by our own generous parishioners. It is only left now to thank all who have helped in the parish, the generosity of the tourists and visiting priests and the many good friends from all over the world.

Thank you for your goodness and generosity; may the Christ Child bless you all.
Fr. Luke ofm

Christmas 2015