Vassula in New York City : Part 2
May 25-30, 2004
Visit to the Dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of N.Y.
Georgia Klamson is a member of the Greek community in New York and attends the Divine Liturgy at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Knowing Fr. Robert Stephanopoulos, the Dean of the Cathedral quite well, she set up this appointment for him to meet Vassula. Having read some of the Messages, Fr. Robert was curious to make the acquaintance of a Greek Orthodox woman endowed with such a gift and was eager to know her views on current issues in the U.S. such as feminism and homosexuality. With regard to homosexuality, Vassula referred to St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Romans 25-32, adding that people should come back to living according to the way God created them.
On the subject of her Inter-Religious mission, we were reminded of the Terrorist Issue which has inhibited Americans in their attitude towards Moslems in general. Fr. Robert questioned her on how she, as a Christian, interacts with Moslems. She told him about the Atisha Dipankar and Visuddhananda Peace Gold Award she received from the Buddhists in Bangladesh last year, and the ensuing invitation from a Moslem professor from the Dept. of World Religions, for her to speak to his students at the Moslem University of Dacca where she delivered a Christian message, reading from the Beatitudes. She emphasized to Fr. Robert that one must witness for Christ and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit to convert people. This is the difference between witnessing for your faith and proselytizing.
After a polite exchange of good wishes, Vassula handed Fr. Robert Vol. 12 of the Messages, the Odes to the Holy Trinity and a booklet of TLIG Messages for the Greek Orthodox. He wished her a successful meeting the following Saturday, excusing himself from attending due to preparations for Pentecost Sunday, and that Fr. Angelo Gavalas would be there in his stead.
4:30 p.m. Visit to the Greek Ambassador to the United Nations
Vassula was very pleased to meet Mr. Michael Daratzikis, Ambassador, and Deputy Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations. They both discovered they shared a common background; the Ambassador was also born in Egypt. She briefly told him of her experience and her work, and on seeing the book, he was very impressed by the beauty of the handwriting. Reading a few pages, he commented that he believed and said it reminded him of the Fathers of the Church. She encouraged him to read on and assured him that reading the Messages would give him peace. The openness, warmth, and graciousness of Mr. Daratzakis marked our first full day in New York.
May 27, Thursday Appointment at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, with its headquarters in New York City, is an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is composed of an Archdiocesan District - New York and 8 Metropolises: New Jersey, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Boston and Denver. It is governed by the Archbishop and the Eparchial Synod of Bishops.
Fr. Alex Karloutsos holds office as an advisor in the Archdiocese headquarters and is also the Parish Priest of the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church in Southampton, N.Y. Georgia Klamson had told Fr. Alex about Vassula and had furnished him with information of her activities and the Messages. He demonstrated a keen interest in her work and in her person, so, on knowing of her visit to New York, he arranged to invite Vassula and Georgia to an informal lunch in the City. The meeting point was at his office in the Archdiocese building at 11:30 a.m. They were received amid a rush of phone calls for which Fr. Alex apologized, expressing the need to escape to quieter surroundings where he could at last give his undivided attention to his special guest. Over lunch, Fr. Alex shared his amazement at how someone with no theological training could produce such a divine work, that it could only come from God. He compared the poetry of True Life in God to the Songs of Solomon and had difficulty in understanding when he learned that many Orthodox priests were wary and afraid of it. Vassula took the opportunity to mention the ordeals of her mission for Church Unity and the obstacles put in her way due to the rejection by the majority of the Greek Orthodox clergy. He was sympathetic on hearing of her trials; he encouraged and reassured her of his support. They parted with the hope and the wish to meet again in the near future.
2:30 p.m. Visit to the Parish Priest of the Armenian Cathedral in New York City
The TLIG organizers in New York reserved the Parish Hall of the Armenian Cathedral for Vassula’s Meeting the following Saturday afternoon. Fr. Mardiros, the Dean of the Armenian Cathedral, St. Vartan’s, welcomed us and very proudly showed us his church. He gave us the background of the Cathedral, the first to be built in America. The biggest Armenian communities in the U.S. are found in New York and more recently, California. Vassula talked about her visit to Armenia last year, and was happy to inform him that Vergine and Tigranuhi from Armenia would be at the Meeting.
3:15 p.m. Interview on Greek National T.V.
Vassula was driven to Astoria, Queens, the Greek quarter of New York, to tape a TV interview which was to be aired the following evening, advertising the Saturday event at the Armenian Center. The Greeks of New York are so numerous that “Little Athens” is like an island teeming with Greek restaurants, shops and churches. The Greek National TV station, which is owned by Demetrios Kastanas, is located in the center of Astoria where we heard Greek spoken everywhere we went. She was interviewed in the Greek language for half an hour by a pleasant young man, a reporter called Panicos. Read part 3 in our next newsletter.