By Dr. George Tsakalidis
Theologian - Teacher of Religion
Commissioner of the High Confederation of Multiple Children in Greece
Monk Nikodemos Bilalis left us on June 4th and was buried next to the Sacred Monastery of Pantocratoros at Mount Athos. A pure and genuine Greek Orthodox soul, he dedicated himself to the service of families with multiple children. As a theologian and scholar, Fr. Nikodemos composed many theological writings, some of which were used as textbooks in secondary education.
He participated in theological and demographic conferences and gave presentations that made an impression on large audiences. Fr. Nikodemos was amongst the most scholarly monks of Mount Athos. In fact, he died a few days after the scholarly monk Moses, also well-known throughout Greece for his books and the articles he occasionally published. He even died in the same way as that of Saint Athanasios the Athonite, who came from Trebizond and was the founder of monasticism in Mount Athos, and whose biography he wrote.
A chaste man, Fr. Nikodemos kept vigorous his physical strength, and despite being 85 years old he ventured to climb a ladder to the roof of his cell in Kapsala of Mount Athos. But he fell and gave his last breath, just like the Saint he wrote about.
The Orthodox Church and Greece owe much to Fr. Nikodemos. He was himself born of a super-multiple child family and was acquainted with his own experiences of the strengths and virtues cultivated naturally through families with multiple children, and he made it a purpose in his life to promote Greek Orthodox multi-child families.
His monastic schema did not prevent him from being surrounded by and dealing with multi-child families. He asked for a blessing from Elder Paisios, and he not only gave it to him, but also encouraged him to occupy himself with the blessed multi-child families of Greece. For 36 years he published the magazine Greek Orthodox Multi-Child Family (Eλληνορθόδοξη Πολύτεκνη Oικογένεια), which was shared at no charge from the candlestands of churches. There amounted 141 issues till the time of his death.
500,000 copies circulated. The offering of this magazine was colossal. Through the donation cards, which were inserted in every issue of the magazine, thousands of large families who faced financial issues were helped. Some faced the risk of having their homes auctioned off for failure to pay their mortgage or if they rented they faced eviction for failure to pay rent. In these cases Fr. Nikodemos intervened like lightning and prevented them from falling into this situation, helping put them back on the road towards having super-multiple families. There were families he cared for permanently and others who were in urgent need. Most touching was that among the donors were those who were in multi-child families themselves while their finances were meager. These touching letters can be read in the magazine, as well as amazing eye catching family photos with all the members of a family, including grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Seeing the tremendous dimensions abortions have received in Greece (there are three times more abortions than births), Fr. Nikodemos undertook a real struggle at informing people to avoid this modern scourge. Many are those who were influenced by his writings and brought to the world children that were given to them by God, others shunned abortions they were planning on having, others were corrected by repentance and gave birth to other children after they had an abortion, and yet others became partners in protecting unborn children. Views on national issues and heroic events did not escape the attention of Fr. Nikodemos.
All these things are a tremendous contribution to the Church and the people of Greece, for which he deserves every just praise. His death leaves a void hard to fill. Multi-child families that were multifariously assisted will naturally feel orphaned. May the Lord send a worthy replacement and rank him among his chosen ones.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos