11,000 People converged upon the city of Avlona April 29 (New Style) for the feast of the Myrrhbearers, the Patronal feast of the largest of the convents under the TOC of the Patristic Calendar under Metropolitan Anghelos of Avlonos and Boetia.
The feast was attended by over a dozen hierarchs from around the world, including Metropolitan Rafael of Moscow, who, for reasons not immediately apparent, was addressed as Patriarch– something that in an upcoming interview with NFTU was addressed– leading a delegation of the True Orthodox Church of Russia, as well as Metropolitan John of New York, representing the Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles. NFTU’s Deacon Joseph Suaiden was invited as a guest.
The Myrrhbearers Convent is home to approximately 100 nuns. Visitors to the festivities began in the morning and continued coming well into the afternoon. As a procession swerved through the exterior of the convent returning to the Church, helicopters dropped carnations from the skies to commemorate the event.
From the Greek and Russian Churches a substantial delegation arrived, including Metropolitan Andrei of Kyiv and Ukraine, both of the Greek Church’s Hierarchs of Georgia and Abkhazia, Metropolitan Daniel of Phillipolis, representing the Bulgarian delegation of the TOC-R and two of the Bulgarian priests of the Greek Synod. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Ecuador was present along with a vicar Bishop. There were a number of other Russian Metropolitans present for the festivities. Two priests of the French diocese of the TOC-PC were also present.
Fr Ambrogio Ciotta, formerly of the Milan Synod, was present for services the days previous, and had been received in as the representative of Italy for the TOC-PC. When asked about the reception, Metropolitan John of New York, the remaining hierarch of the Milan Metropolia present at the celebration, responded only: “I was not consulted.”
After the services (at which your editor was present and even managed to completely mangle a little litany in English) there was a festive celebration in the open air part of the monastery– a large and imposing structure– while the clergy present were treated to a reception involving cuisine prepared by the nuns as well as some unique and multicultural music.