Jack Howland, Poughkeepsie Journal

The roughly 90-minute divine liturgy service at Kimisis Greek Orthodox Church is already steeped in tradition, with communion and song and the burning of incense, but there was one extra step Sunday morning.

Archbishop Demetrios was leading the service, and that meant the inclusion of a ceremony with candles to welcome the hierarch of the church. The 89-year-old descendant of the apostle Andrew, referred to as the “Greek Pope” by some parishioners, held up three candles in his right hand and two candles in his left — three for the “holy trinity,” and two to represent God as God and man.

Appearing ahead of the Aug. 15 Dormition of the Mother of God holy day, the Archbishop spoke of the Virgin Mary as “not only the mother of God, but the mother of all people” who should be imitated in terms of love, purity and justice.

He also said her example is “particularly important in our time,” addressing the unrest and political division in a time that was supposed to be the “century of light.”
“Unfortunately, we seem to be more and more in an impenetrable darkness,” he said softly into a microphone that reached the more than 100 who filled pews. “Look at the corruption, look at the violence, look at the injustice. Look at the blood that is being shed at this moment while we talk.”
The Archbishop, who issued a statement in opposition of President Donald Trump’s travel ban in February, didn’t mention the commander-in-chief but was direct in addressing the events in Charlottesville Saturday when a car crashed into a group of people following a white nationalist rally, killing one and injuring 19.
Orthodox Christians around the world have been “victims of hatred, persecution and bigotry” and said the answer is to pray for the victims and for the peaceful coexistence of people on Earth, as well as to offer practical assistance.
Parishioners lined up after the service to meet the smiling bishop and kiss his hand, a custom in the Greek church.
“I think his message is very clear — I just wish the rest of the world would hear that message and heed it,” said 62-year-old parishioner and City of Poughkeepsie resident Despina Stathidis “Just wanting everyone to start listening to their hearts rather than to all of the negativity and the hatred.”
The Archbishop’s appearance Sunday marked the first time he’s come to the church in around 10 years, according to parishioner Dimitri “Jimmy” Sassos. He said the church was pleasantly surprised to get his call announcing he would be here, after the Archbishop decided on Poughkeepsie after looking at other Greek Orthodox churches in the mid-Hudson Valley.
His presence at Kimisis Sunday was especially significant considering the Dormition holiday, or the “feast of the blessed mother,” Sassos said. The celebration is also called “the assumption,” which is what Kimisis translates into in Greek.
“This is our church’s name day; it’s our feast day,” said Sassos, who stood outside the chapel to greet church members. “This is a big honor for us because the Archbishop is the head of the North American and South American Greek Orthodox Church, so this is one guy with two continents.”
But the Archbishop, though he was dressed in golden robes, said he alone doesn’t have all the answers and that younger people need to continue praying and working.
Looking out at the younger generation of church members in attendance, he said theirs is a generation of faith and love who could work toward peace in the world.
They give him hope, he said.
“Sometimes serious people raise the question, ‘Is there a future for young people?’” he said to the crowd. “There is a future, for sure, because this young generation…is connected with God.”