A conference was organized the 3rd-4th of August 2011, at the town of Sofia, with the participation of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria under the title of “Religion and Its Service to Mankind”. The Church of Cyprus was represented by his Grace Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis. The invitation to the Church of Cyprus was sent by his Eminence the Metropolitan of Varna Mr. Cyril. Representatives were also sent by the Orthodox Churches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (metropolitan of Xanthis Mr. Panteleimon), the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Romania, and the church of Greece (metropolitan of Didimotichou Mr. Damaskinos). They also participate, representatives from the Armenian Church in Bulgaria, the Arch-Mufti of Bulgaria, the Mufti of the Muslim community of Croatia, the Arch-Rabbi of Tel-Aviv, the Arc-Rabbi of Bulgaria, as well as theologians and other personalities who take part in the inter-religious dialogues.
His Grace Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis stressed among others: The Orthodox Church gathers the fallen man, created in the image of God, to its bosom with a specific aim and objective theosis (deification), which is granted by the Grace of God to man. But for man to achieve theosis (deification), he must first pass through the stages of purification of the passions and enlightenment of the spirit by Divine Grace. Man’s purification is not achieved by magic but by way of a therapeutic treatment to which man is introduced through the Church. Purification must be completed in this life. Because after death there can be no repentance. The treatment for purification is carried out by means of exercise which includes fasting, vigils, prayer, virtuous actions, mercy, charity and more. It is necessary and essential that man should participate in the mysteries of the Church, in particular confession and the Divine Eucharist. Via the mysteries he will increase within himself the Divine Grace which he received during the mystery of Holy Baptism.
The fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in struggling mankind is, as Saint Paul preached, “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). By living substantially in the Orthodox Church, man gains the Orthodox Christian ethos which teaches him to love his fellow man, whether he is of the same faith or of another faith, or even an enemy as an image of the living God, according to Christ’s teaching: “I say unto you, love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). He prays for his welfare and his salvation in Christ. Within the Church, he becomes a man of joy and peace. He tries to pass on these divine gifts to others with this active involvement in collective initiatives and efforts to maintain social and global peace. Having gained the experience and knowledge of God within the Church, he expresses and presents this experience in all other aspects of his life. This is evident across the whole range of his scientific and cultural creation. In architecture, painting, music and literature.
In the Orthodox Church, man does not live with the expectation of the Kingdom of God being a situation in which, after death, he will enjoy rewards for his good actions but he contrives to live the fruits of Eternal Life in the present.
This living witness has been maintained in the modern world for two thousand years by the local Orthodox Church of Cyprus. In 45AD, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas travelled to the island and preached the Gospel of Salvation. Since then to this day, the Church has stood beside and suffered with its tormented people. Like a loving mother it works for the salvation of its flock and joins in its struggle for liberation from the Turkish occupation troops that invaded the island in July 1974. Recognising this love and service, the people of Cyprus rank the Church highly among the institutions that they trust the most, according to recent surveys.
We end this brief address with the prayer that the modern Athonite Saint Silouanos addressed to God: “Lord, I beseech You to let all the people of the world come to know You through the Holy Spirit.”