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May 1, 2015

Saint Panaretos of Paphos as a Model for our Lives

St. Panaretos, Metropolitan of Paphos (Feast Day - May 1)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Panaretos was born in Cyprus, specifically in Peristeronopigi of Famagusta, in around 1710. "Those were difficult times. The much-enslaved and martyric Island literally writhed beneath the heavy burden of slavery under the Turks." His parents were pious people, and wealthy for that time. He learned his first letters from his parents and then continued his studies at the Greek school in Nicosia. After completing his studies, he returned to settle in the half-ravaged Monastery of Saint Anastasios, which was in his village.

Later, he was ordained a clergyman and served as abbot for many years at the Monastery of the Theotokos in Pallouriotissa of Nicosia. "The period of his abbacy at this Monastery was a period of national trials, humiliations and persecutions of the Greek element. A Turkish revolutionary named Halil, with two thousand compatriots, wanted to occupy Nicosia. To force the Turks to surrender the city he seized the nearby villages.... In Kythrea they broke down the doors of the churches, threw down the Holy Lamb from the Tabernacle, and they trampled on it. The situation was martyric.... In danger of his own life, Saint Panaretos in those difficult moments became the consoling angel for those who were hurting and the defender and protector of the persecuted. His vibrant and substantial sympathy towards the suffering of the people was honored so much by both the clergy and the laity, that he was elected Metropolitan of Paphos in 1767" (Papastavrou Papathangelou, Figures Who Sanctified Cyprus, p. 194).

From this position he was given the opportunity to develop all his hidden graces, and in those dark years of slavery he became the support and bright beacon who shepherded his flock sacrificially with an Orthodox crucifixion/resurrection ethos that distinguished him. To those who honestly admitted their mistakes and struggled to correct themselves he was forgiving. The wicked and incorrigible he treated with due rigor according to each case, in order to awaken consciences and cause repentance and correction. The authors of his life have preserved certain characteristic features of his life. We would like to mention only two, which are enough to reveal how he faced various problems in his Diocese, and how he diligently cared for his own personal orderliness and salvation.

1. One of the priests of his province was seized with the passion of fraud, which resulted in his parishioners suffering and they were forced to denounce him to the Bishop. He called the Priest, made his observations, properly advised him and he in turn promised to fix it. In reality, however, he made no effort, but quite the opposite things got worse, and the parishioners sought his removal. The Bishop advised him for a second and third time. When the Priest would speak boldly and would lie, the Bishop spoke austerely, saying: "Shut your mouth and do not speak, since you deign to lie and swear a vow without fear." And from that moment he became dumb and could not speak. After some time the Priest became heavily ill and sought to see the Bishop, and with nods asked to confess. The Bishop ran to him, and when he diagnosed a true repentance, he forgave him, blessed him and loosed his tongue. He confessed, communed and "departed this world in peace."

2. Saint Panaretos was intensely employed with the issue of his own salvation. Throghout his life he prepared for the hour of his departure. He had the grace of the remembrance of death and desired that the end of his life be "Christian, unashamed, peaceful." He was made worthy to foreknow the time of his departure and he took care to be most ready. Shortly before his repose he told his Chancellor that his friend was coming, the former Bishop Parthenios of Karpathos, in order to give his confession. He even told him to go to the waterfront to receive him and bring him to the Diocese. The Chancellor thought he was babbling because of his illness and he disobeyed. But upon the Saint's insistence he obeyed and indeed found him at the waterfront on a ship, which due to the strong winds ran aground in Paphos. There he found Bishop Parthenios, who hastened, full of emotion and amazement, to meet the Saint. After confessing him, the next day he liturgized and communed him. Saint Panaretos asked him to remain one more day to celebrate his funeral service. He remained, since due to weather conditions it was impossible for the ship to leave. Thus he buried the relic of the Saint, which was fragrant and even cured many of the sick, who invoked his intercessions.

These reveal his crucifixion/resurrection ethos, his sacrificial way by which he pastored his reasonable sheep entrusted to him by the Church, and how much he was concerned for salvation, both that of his flock and his own.

The way in which the Saints depart this life is truly admirable and enviable.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ἅγιος Πανάρετος, Μητροπολίτης Πάφου", May 2002. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.