Diocesan News

First Time Two Brooklyn Orthodox Christian Parishes Celebrate Good Friday Together

St. Mary’s Pastor Father Michael Ellias (center) prepares to greet clergy from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church.

BAY RIDGE — Good Friday this year had special significance for two parishes in Bay Ridge: Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church on Ridge Boulevard and 83rd St and St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church on 81st St. and Ridge Boulevard. 

While Catholics celebrated Easter more than a month ago, on March 31, this year the Orthodox Easter was celebrated on May 5. That’s because Orthodox religious holidays occur in accordance with the Julian calendar, while Catholics follow the more modern Gregorian calendar. 

Following Good Friday services, at approximately 9 p.m., parishioners from both churches walked along Ridge Boulevard from different directions and met on 83rd Street, where Greek Orthodox Bishop Athenegoras and Holy Cross pastor Father Gerasimos Makris came face to face with St. Mary’s pastor Father Michael Ellias and culminated with Bishop Athenegoras sprinkling holy oil on the faithful and hugging Father Ellias as parishioners surrounded them in solidarity.

St. Mary’s Parish Council Chair Anthony Zrake expressed his gratitude at being able to share what he termed a “sacred moment with our brothers and sisters at Holy Cross.” 

He also said that there was no doubt that Jesus was walking with the hundreds of faithful who were present.

“I am emboldened by the joy of the coming Resurrection to say, and to pray, that this gathering is a demonstration of our shared faith, and that it is pleasing to God,” he added.

While the two parishes are close, just a few blocks from each other, this year marked the first Good Friday where parishioners and clergy from both churches made the joint pilgrimage, carrying crosses and religious icons, greeting each other, singing some hymns, offering prayers, and returning to their respective churches. 

The unprecedented act of church unity was addressed by St. Mary’s parish council member Chris Athineos who said that it sent chills up his spine.

“In a world where there is so much division, it was so heartwarming to see different ethnicities who worship the same God under the Orthodox umbrella, including Greeks, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, Russians, and Georgians come together on Good Friday with the hope of the Resurrection,” said Athineos. “I just hope it can be an example to the rest of the world to bring all of the Orthodox, all of the Christians and people of all faiths together.”

Father Ellias summed up the importance of the event by saying, “Tonight the churches in Bay Ridge made history as St. Mary’s and Holy Cross joined their epitaphios [religious icons] in the middle of Ridge Boulevard and God willing it’s just the first of many years to come.”