Gennadios Zervos:   the unity of two sister Churches

Il Metropolita Gennadios Zervos e Gabriella Fallacara alla 59° Settimana ecumenica promossa dal Centro "Uno", Castel Gandolfo (Italia), 13 maggio 2017.

A long and deep friendship united the Focolare Movement to the recently deceased Metropolitan.. The article that follows was written by Gabriella Fallacara, a focolarina and expert in ecumenism who for many years was in charge of “Centro Uno”, for the unity of Christians.

“When I first visited Gennadios Zervos’ modest house, I was greeted with particular cordiality. His mother, who spoke little Italian but beautiful Greek offered me a strange dessert: it was a small “curl” of a white creamy substance that was stuck firmly to a long spoon and it was immersed in a glass of clear water. Its subtle flavour seemed to embody every aspect of the orient.” This was how I began my article about an interview with Gennadios Zervos that I wrote for “Città Nuova” magazine.[i] That first meeting dates back to November 1970. I did not know then that, after a few months, Gennadios Zervos would be elected by Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople and his Synod and be given the title of Bishop of Kratea. This meant that for the first time in 275 years, an Orthodox Bishop was to be consecrated in Italy.

That “homely atmosphere” was a characteristic of the friendship that Bishop Gennadios shared with us for many years.

Zervos was very young when he first came to Naples in 1961.  He was only twenty-four years old but he was a high school teacher and lecturer in Greek patrology in the Superior Institute of Theology in Bari.  He also wrote for the magazine “Stakis” which was the most important paper in the Greek Orthodox world. He had already graduated in Orthodox theology in Constantinople and in Catholic theology at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Naples. He certainly had a prestigious career before him, but how did this develop?

He had actually expected to carry out his mission in Greece, but the Patriarch Athenagoras presented him with a new goal. “You need to be in Italy,“  he said, “ because it is the centre of Catholicism.  We need young theologians there … for the unity of the two sister Churches.” And this is a prophecy that has been fulfilled.

The last time we were in contact, a few months ago, he spoke of the joy that has always been characteristic of our relationship. “I will never forget our meetings in Rocca di Papa [ii] because they gave me the joy of knowing Chiara Lubich who I had admired for so many years. There were our meetings with the Orthodox, as well as our meetings with the Bishops Friends of the Movement. The last time I saw her was in the Gemelli Hospital.   Her splendid figure and her splendid personality live in my soul. For us she is a pillar of love and unity through whom we have come to know the supreme testament of our Saviour, his will that “all may be one.’

Gennadios was a humble but determined protagonist of the “new season” that began with the Second Vatican Council.  He shared and lived Chiara Lubich’s charism of unity which contributed to the fulfilment of the vision of the Council. His simplicity and integrity made him an ambassador for the Eastern Church, thus creating bridges of respect, collaboration and understanding. His contribution to the history of the Church fills us with gratitude.

Gabri Fallacara

 [i] G. Fallacara in “Citta Nuova” Feb. 1971

[ii] Ecumenical Meetings promoted by the Centro “Uno” Secretariat.

Foto: Metropolitan Gennadios Zervos & Gabriella Fallacara at the 59th week long Ecumenical Meeting, promoted by Centro “Uno”, Castel Gandolfo, Italy, 13th May 2017.

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