A special event in honor of the delegation of Holy Monasteries of Mount Athos, accompanying the icon of the Virgin Mary “Axion Esti” in Athens, in the presence of the Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos, on the evening of Sunday 7 May, in the ceremony hall of the town hall in Kotzia square, hosted by the mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis.

As part of the event, he was honored for his rich philanthropic work and contribution, the political commander of Mount Athos, Mr. Athanasios Martinos.

“It is a supreme blessing for the capital to welcome again, the Ephestion of the Ephesians, the icon of Mount Athos, the “Axion Esti”. I would like to say a big thank you to the Holy Elders for their spiritual and social contribution to the Orthodox Church and the Greek nation, and by extension to the whole world. With their own prayers and services, the work of the monastic community of the country constitutes the “lighthouse” on the rocks, which directs the ships of the world, to reach their destination, to God, as St. Paisios the Agiorite typically said” , said Mr. Bakoyiannis, welcoming his distinguished guests.

Mount Athos

For his part, the Most Holy Primate of Mount Athos, Elder Christophoros Iberitis, in his greeting pointed out, among other things, that “today the Virgin Athonite becomes the Virgin Athiniotissa, the holy community, supreme, administrative authority of Mount Athos is present here in a body representing the whole of Agiorite monasticism during the year to accompany this holy icon of Theotokos whenever it leaves Mount Athos and in the past the Holy Community has visited Athens carrying this icon on the occasion of the millennium of Mount Athos in 1963, the presence of of the late Patriarch Dimitrios in 1987 and the tragic event of the Attica earthquake in 1999”.

As part of the event, the mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis awarded the Medal of the City of Athens to the political commander of Mount Athos Athanasios Martinos, as a sign of honor and recognition for his continuous contribution and rich philanthropic work in the city of Athens and in the country, as well as for his valuable contribution to the administration of Athonica State and Orthodoxy in general.

The mayor of Athens praised the great contribution of Mr. Martinos, both to the monastic community of Mount Athos, but also to society in general, emphasizing characteristically: “Governing Mount Athos is not a recognition but a mission. […] Mr. Martinos is a philanthropist as the word defines. A friend of humanity, with a life dedicated to the relief of human suffering, to the promotion of spirituality. Always in low tones, with the common good in mind. He is a patriot, a universal Greek… Tonight is the best time to honor him, among his loved ones and his second family, that of Mount Athos”.

In his speech, he even added that Mr. Athanasios Martinos is the man someone deserves at the end of the day, returning home to talk to his children about him.

In his opposition, Mr. Martinos referred to the extraordinary timing of his award from his friend, as he described it, the mayor of Athens, Costas Bakoyannis, and addressing those present, he emphasized:

“For me, the presence of His Beatitude and Saint Protos at my award today on the occasion of the visit of the holy community that brought to Athens the icon of the Mother of God, the “Axion Esti”, is a great honor. It is known that I love our Church, Orthodoxy and Mount Athos. It was definitely the best possible opportunity to receive this medal.” Thanking Mr. Bakoyannis, he wished him “All the best”.

Moreover, earlier the Chief Superintendent of Mount Athos, referring to Mr. Martinos, underlined that “he is already a great benefactor of Mount Athos, he supports us in all our problems and needs without calculating effort, cost and care”. He characterized the contribution of Mr. Martinos as valuable and invaluable “to our city, our homeland and to our entire race”.

The event was attended by, among others, the Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection Lefteris Economou, the former Deputy Minister of National Defense and former head of GES, Alcibiadis Stefanis.

It is noted that the Holy Icon is hosted in the Holy Synthron of the Temple of Protatos, in the Karyes of Mount Athos and is considered the most important icon in the garden of Panagia, as “Ephestion” and “Protector” of the 20 Agioritei Monasteries, a copy of which is found in every monastery.

She was probably canonized in Constantinople before 982 AD, while in 1836 her silver shirt was added, crafted in Vatopedi Monastery. In front of the icon, the Professors of the 20 Monasteries signed on October 3, 1913, the resolution of the Eternal Union of Mount Athos with Greece. This is the 8th time, that the icon “Axion Esti” comes out of Mount Athos.

Aliki Skoundridakis