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July 7, 2012

The Canonization of Saint Nektarios and Patriarch Athenagoras

The official recognition of Metropolitan Nektarios of Pentapolis, the Wonderworker of Aegina, as a Saint was accomplished by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, under Patriarch Athenagoras, which took place on 20 April 1961.

Few people know however that Patriarch Athenagoras (+ July 7, 1972) actually met St. Nektarios. In 1918, while Athenagoras was residing on Mount Athos, he was invited by Metropolitan Meletios of Athens to come to Athens to serve under him as a deacon. During this time he met St. Nektarios and received his blessing. St. Nektarios also gave the future Ecumenical Patriarch a photograph, on which he signed: "To the man who was predestined to write history. Nektarios of Pentapolis."

(Σοφοκλέους Δημητρακοπούλου, "Ο άγιος Νεκτάριος Πενταπόλεως. Η πρώτη αγία μορφή των καιρών μας", Σελ. 281 - 282.)

The decision to canonize St. Nektarios forty years after his repose inspired much discussion at the time and articles were written about it. Furthermore, at the time many people who knew St. Nektarios and lived near to him speculated that Athenagoras was doing this for his own gain and nothing else, due to his controversial stance as a leader of the Ecumenical Movement. With the proclamation of his sainthood, Patriarch Athenagoras further decided that all women and men who bore the name "Nektaria" or "Nektarios" should celebrate their Name Day on November 9th every year. Before this time, these names were celebrated on July 11th.