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The Greek Orthodox spiritual leader will toss a cross into water today.
By ELENA LESLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published January 6, 2008
[Joseph Garnett, Jr. | Times]
CLEARWATER - The spiritual leader who will throw a cross into Spring Bayou today -and bless the boy who retrieves it - had warm words Saturday for Tampa Bay's Greek Orthodox community.
"It was excellent by itself," His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios said of an annual welcome reception thrown at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, "and by anticipation of a wonderful time here."
A native of Greece, the archbishop, 79, became spiritual head of the U.S. Greek Orthodox Church in 1999 and has performed a pivotal role in Tarpon Springs' Epiphany celebration several times before.
He flew in from New York on Saturday and was immediately escorted to the Clearwater church, where an enthusiastic audience honored him and visiting priests and dignitaries.
Members of the church began planning the reception, which included a formal luncheon and performance by the Orthodox Youth Choir of Tampa Bay, a few weeks in advance, said Mary Prinos, a member of the parish council.
The archbishop thanked event organizers for their "superb hospitality," praising them for their attention to both aesthetic and culinary detail.
The group always manages to make "things not only tasty, but visually attractive," he said.
After the archbishop arrived at the church, he was greeted by the choir, which sang in Greek, Latin, English and Serbian Slavonic.
The ensemble was "not an easy, light children's choir," the archbishop said, adding that he was very impressed by its performance.
He said he was pleased to see young people engaged in an activity that would enhance their skills and their relationships with others.
"They're not just singing together, they're bonding together," he said.
Looking forward to the day ahead, the archbishop said Tarpon Springs' Epiphany celebration has a special significance because it ties religion to nature. Diving for the cross in Spring Bayou commemorates Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River.
"We need to have the whole of nature - water, air, earth - participate," he said of the religious rite, which "emphasizes the sacredness of nature."
Elena Lesley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 445-4167.
[Last modified January 5, 2008, 22:12:41]