The Church of Cephalonia is "with great certainty" among the Apostolic Churches founded in Greece by St. Paul the Apostle. This was the scientific conclusion of the Third Conference on "Identifying Cephalonia as Meliti (Praxeis 28,1)", that was held in Lixouri, Cephalonia from August 26th to August 29th of 1999. On the same topic there had been two scientific Symposia of a more limited scope, in 1993 and 1996, held in Lixouri as well and organized by the Holy Metropolis of Cephalonia.

At he bottom of the desire to confirm the relationship between St. Paul, the Enlightener of Greece, with the local Cephalonian Church was Dr. Heinz Warnecke's dissertation at the Philosophy School of Vreme University (Germany) which proposed a revolutionary theory and was referred to as "the theological event of the century". The dissertation published in 1987 under the title "Die tatsachliche Romfahrt des Apostels Paulus"(St. Paul the Apostle's True Journey to Rome), claims through citation of very convincing arguments, that: in 59 AD, St. Paul on his way from Palestine to Rome in order to stand trial, was not shipwrecked and confined for three months to Malta (Praxeis Chapter 27), but rather, all this took place on the Greek island of Cephalonia.

Mr. Warnecke, a geography historian, evangelist in doctrine, put forth a theory which contained the first "revolutionary" piece of data: confirmation of the historical event of the shipwreck and St. Paul's turmoils as outlined in ch. 27 (Praxeis), something that is rejected by the "liberal" protestant critics. Thus, the attacks aimed at this new theory are understandable since the representatives of this school of thought, using a different approach, reject the identification of Cephalonia as Meliti. In this, their views coincide with those of the Maltese and the Vatican.

Mr. Warnecke's historical-geographic conclusion however, was internationally received and accepted, making Cephalonia the center of attention for scientists and the media on the issue of St. Paul's shipwreck locale. The island has already gathered the interest of the international community during the last decades due to its identification as Homeric Ithaca, a theory embraced by Mr. Warnecke as well. It was his involvement with the latter theory from a homeric geography and archeology viewpoint - a purely scientific incentive - that led him to research the historical validity of the events outlined in Praxeis chapter 27.

The identification of Cephalonia as the place of St. Paul's shipwreck was not , of course, arbitrarily arrived at. It was rather a result of scientific review of historical accounts, especially the locational information provided in Praxeis, which after eliminating the possibility of Malta being Meliti due to the sea currents and other metereological facts, it focused on Cephalonia. As confirmed by Captain W. Stecher during the last Conference, the geophysical and navigational indications all point to Cephalonia. This has also been reaffirmed by repeated computer simulations of the journey. Mr. Wernecke has promoted the conclusions of his research through a multitude of publications and especially the second publication of his dissertation plus two more books. In addition he has lectured on the subject in Malta and Greece. Over 150 positive book reviews have been written on his publications, most of them accepting the theory. As a result, in Western Europe and especially Germany, known as the place where most of the provacative and revolutionary theological issues are usually first investigated, all Atlases and Lexicons have adapted the theory or mention it alongside the older position. New editions of the New Testament have ousted the unscientific and slogan-like content of verse 28,1: "...Malta is the island called", reverting to the authentic text: "...Meliti is the island called".

Mr Wernecke's theory was made widely known in Greece mainly through the scientific presentations of Professors I. Karavidopoulos and G. Galitis, as well as by Reverend G. Metallinos through his lectures and related publications. . From the beginning, the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Cephalonia Spyridon, fully aware of the significance of the the theory regarding Meliti, did not spare effort nor expenses for its promotion and scientific confirmation. The Holy Metropolis of Cephalonia took on the publication of the presentation of critical reviews of the theory by Rev. G. Metallinos and the translation of Mr. Warnecke's studies. The Metropolis also undertook the convocation of the three Symposia - Conferences mentioned earlier.

At the 1993 Scientific Symposium, two distinguished experts on the New Testament - namely Professor G. Galitis and Professor I. Galanis - expressed their corresponding conclusions: "Malta, no. Cephalonia, why not?" and, "Malta, no, Cephalonia, probably yes".

This interscientific (theological, metereological, physiognomistic etc) approach to the issue proves that it would have been impossible for the boat carrying St. Paul - sailing out of control for fourteen days in "Andria Sea" - to be directed to Malta (i.e. west of Crete), when the strong south winds started blowing. Instead, it would have moved in a northwestern direction, deep into the Ionian Sea and ended up in Cephalonia like so many other shipwrecks in ancient times that have been noted by Mr. Warnecke. According to his announcements at the last Conference in 1999, similar accounts can be found in the Odyssey, such as that of the Phoenician ship heading to Pylos that was swept by the thundering winds from Crete to Cephalonia. Another mention is found in the Homeric Ode to Apollo where a Cretan ship ended up in Cephalonia due to the sweeping southern winds. More accounts still are found in the ancient romance story "Chaireas and Kalliroe" by Chariton Aphrodiseas during the era of the Roman empire. According to this account, a wind storm forced the the ship of Cretan pirate Theron while sailing to Syracuse to end up in Cephalonia, forcing Theron to spend his winter on the island. It was from Cephalonia that he finally sailed to Syracuse. This is an impressive account of a sea journey comparable to that told inPraxeis regarding St. Paul's journey to Rome via Syracuse.

This relationship explains one of the most incomprehendible points of Praxeis. In verse 28,1 it is stated that originally neither the shipwrecked Apostles (Paul, Luke, etc), nor the crew members recognized the island of Cephalonia. (Praxeis 27,39: " the land, they recognized not.."). This seems very peculiar since Cephalonia was well known in navigational circles of the Roman era. As told, they asked the islanders they met as to the land's identity and were informed that the island's name was "Meliti". According to Mr. Warnecke, Meliti was the name of the Argostoli Peninsula (Lassi) where he proposes that the ship actually ran ashore and was wrecked. Those of us - and especially seamen - with experience of the weather conditions in Cephalonia, know very well that "sirocco" which frequently causes severe windstorms, causes the entire island to be covered in such heavy fog that even Mt Aenos (with an altitude of 1628 meters) is not visible and the island is rendered unrecognizable. This would be ever so more the case for a ship that has been wandering out of control in Andria for fourteen days. Mr. Theofrastos Hartouliaris, a teacher participating in the Conference, made an interesting and convincing point in his excellent speech: many ships have been known in modern times as well to have shipwrecked in Cephalonia, and specifically in the southern Livatho region (Pessada) which is named Agios Sostis (Saviour)! In contrast, there have been no such literal or other accounts relating to Malta. This was confirmed by Mr. Stetcher' s speech. A similar "account" for Malta could only be a literary gimmick.

Mr Warnecke, once again, involved himself with the interpretations of some significant definitions of the Praxeis text, such as "harbour of Crete" being Phoenix , which according to his astute observation it was not a harbour in Crete but a nautical service point for Crete on the Messinian Peninsula in the Peloponese. Professor Galitis had also made a statement on this previously, while lecturer Chr. Karakolis at the Conference covered this issue with interesting statements. Another significant issue was the redefinition, amidst objections that had since risen, of "in Andria"- the sea where Meliti is located according to Luke the Evangelist's description. According to Mr. Wernecke, this is yet another geographical indication that supports the case for Cephalonia being Meliti. During the era of the Roman Empire, the nautical term "Andrias" was used to exclusively delineate the Adriatic Sea and the northeastern region of the Ionian Sea. As a result, the western Greek islands were the only islands belonging to the so-called "outer Andrias".

Malta, due to its location in the African sea, was known as Melita Africana. In contrast, Cephalonia satisfies all the prerequisites of the geographical location of Meliti as defined in Praxeis. The same applies with regard to the topography of the shipwreck location described in detail in Praxeis. The entrance to Livadi gulf in southwestern Cephalonia complies with the descriptions vis'a'vis the sea depth, the deep sea inlet and the characteristic peninsula with reefs. Malta's topography does not present any locations that correspond to these Praxeis descriptions. Of, course, all issues developed in Mr. Warnecke's dissertation had been discussed in the previous symposia as well. Certainly, this was to the benefit of scientific research and knowledge, since the last remaining doubts were eliminated as to the German researcher's arguments and answers.

Amonst the Praxeis descriptions, two are crucial: the name "Meliti" for Cephalonia and the description of the island inhabitants encountered by the shipwrecked as "barbarians". The peristence of some, especially Cephalonians, in not accepting Mr. Warnecke's theory can be traced to these two issues, especially the second - for obvious reasons. Of course, with no intention of accusing anyone, I must observe that enough supplementary explanations have been given for both points as far back as the 1993 Symposium, as to expect all doubts to have been eliminated. But that is another issue...

Mr. Warnecke supported the scientifically based position that given the fact that only Cephalonia fits the descriptions regarding St. Paul's shipwreck in their entirety, then, the the Apostles' Praxeis provide an account that Cephalonia, or some part of the island, was during a period of time called Meliti. For a historical geographist this poses no problem since the majority of place names have been mentioned only once and any location defined by a name must be affirmed by taking the entire account in its correct context. For example, we know through a single passage of Stravonas that Samothraki was also at some point in time named Meliti. Perhaps, future research will unveil more accounts that associate Cephalonia with the name Meliti. After all, its is widely known that in 19th century nautical language Mt. Aenos was called Melanitsa, Melan Oros, Monte Nero etc. Furthermore, the region of Drapano at the northern end of Argostoli Bay is commonly called Melikia. I have supported the position that this name may come from "Melita" or "Melitsia" which very easily is transformed to "Melikia" by Greek pronunciation.

It's very significant that Mr. Warnecke presented two new and important accounts: a literary one which provided the "missing link" in his chain of arguments, and, a historical one. As far as the first account is concerned, we note that with references to the Odysssey it has been supported that the name "Meliti" originally belonged to Cephalonia as Kalypso's Island . Homeric researchers know Cephalonia was called "Militon" on an account by Efstathios of Thessaloniki. The word is an obvious corruption of "Meliti". This of course is not a strong argument for the use of the name during the times of St. Paul but it does corroborate the view regarding he vagueness in the use of names during antiquity. This knowledge unfortunately is limited to experts only... The second - historic - account comes from the Journeys of Henry Duke of Saxony to the Holy Land in 1498. In the part of his journey's account between Kerkyra (Corfu) and the Peloponese, we come upon the phrase "South of Naxus island is Melitae, the location of the famous shipwreck of St. Paul the Apostle, called Maltham". During these times Naxus was the name of the Assos peninsula, evidenced by the description from the fortress. The Journeys describe the in between stopovers in correct order: Kerkyra - Assos - Melitae - Peloponese. Melitae then, is located south of Assos and is none other than the Lassi Peninsula (Argostoli). However, with the prevalence of the Meliti-Malta identification, historians believed this information to be in error and passed it off as an addendum. Mr. Wrnecke however proves that this is the explanatory phrase "Quam Maltham vocant", an observation that seems correct. It is consequently yet another clear account that during the 15th century, "Meliti" referred to a portion of the island of Cephalonia, the portion that is characterized by intense geographical splitting.

Much simpler to explain today, after meticulous research, is the use of the term "barbarians" to describe the inhabitants of Meliti. The term is definitely not used to describe the cultural development of the island. Rather, it is associated with local speech, or language with pronunciation or accent that is not readily understood. Greeks living in the northwest, including the western Greek islands, have been referred to as "barbarians" by Greek writers up to the New Testament era, due to their usage of a certain dialect and pronunciation. (much like an Athenian today hears the differencaition in the accents of people from Roumeli or the Eptanisa). The use of the word "barbarians" in Praxeis 28,2 and 4 is elsewhere corroborated in the same work (14,11: Apostle Paul to Korinthians: "without seeing the power of speech, I seem a barbarian to the congregation and they seem barbarians to me" ). Therefore, the use of the word does not have a cultural connotation and thus is not used demeaningly. Furthermore, the island inhabitants that the shipwrecked must have first come upon were probably not the island intellectuals but seamen, farmers, or even thieves. Their spiritual development however must have been indeed high since they provided such hospitality for the shipwrecked. The Greek physician Lucas among the shipwreked, comprehended some phrases and the meaning of what these "barbarians" were saying. The "barbarians" spoke Greek but their dialect was hard to understand. Their Greek identity as opposed to the Maltese, is also evidenced by the fact that they worshipped "Diki" (Justice) a Greek Goddess with no Roman counterpart.
All this points to the progress made at the Conference in overcoming some of the problems and providing answers.

THE CONFERENCE (1999)

The Conference had cross-scientific composition. Besides Mr. Warnecke, the Conference was attended by Mr. Dieter Metzler Professor of Ancient History at Munster University, and Mr. Wielfried Stencher Professor of Nautical Science. The former meticulously reviewed the sources of the accounts for the association of the name "Meliti" with Cephalonia (or a region of Cephalonia), as well as the use of the term "barbarians" for its inhabitants. Using a different methology, he neverthless arrived at the same conclusions as Mr. Warnecke. Mr. Stecher, relying on his knowledge and experience as Captain of long-haul ships for over 40 years and Professor at the Hamburg Nautical School, described St. Paul's journey arriving at the conclusion that based on computer simulations, Cephalonia is the only possible shipwreck location. The computer simulation repeatetly pointed to a northwestern or northern direction from Crete, never a western direction. Some simulations ended up right on Cephalonia.

Significant contributions were made by two Cephalonian participants who have involved themselves with this issue: former Minister and president of the Red Cross Gerasimos Apostolatos and, Mr. Theofrastos Hartouliaris, a teacher. Mr Hartouliaris made an impression on the participants with his well documented presentation of important historical and traditional facts of Cephalonia that support Mr. Warnacke's theory.
On the theology side, invitations to attend were extended to all distinguished professors of the New Testament at Orthodox Theology Schools. The following were able to attend:
Ierotheos, Archbishop of Vrochslav and Stetsin - dean of the Interfaith Institute of Warsaw, the Reverend Professor Vasilios Mihoc, and the Professor and Dean of Sofia University Mr. Ivan Dimitrov. All are renowned New Testament experts. From the faculty of Greek Theological Schools the Conference was attended by: 1. Athens University Professors G. Galitis, C. Voulgaris, G. Patronos, Lucas Filis, and lecturers C. Belezos and Ch. Karakolis and 2. Thessaloniki University Professors I. Karavidopoulos, I. Galanis, P. Vasiliadis and Ch. Economou.
Invitations were extended to Roman Catholic theologists as well, but they were unable to attend. His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch was represented by the Reverend Professor Andreas Nanakis and Professor I. Karavidopoulos.
The Conference was held in Argostoli's "Kefalos Theater while the closing ceremonies took place in Lixouri's Town Hall. Present was His Eminence Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos who attended many of the functions as guest of the Metropolitan of Cephalonia., The public was able to participate during the last session in Argostoli (28/8). Reverend G. Metallinos was the Conference Coordinator.
The conclusion reached through the lengthy sessions of the Conference as far as Mr. Warnecke's theory is concerned as well as the historical documentation of chapters 27 and 28 of Praxeis, were stated succinctly by Professor G. Galitis on closing: "Malta, of course not. Cephalonia, probably yes".

An attempt was even made to define the general acceptance level for the theory (80%). As Mr. Stecher observed in a subsequent letter, since Malta is eliminated as a possibility, the remaining 20% in doubt must be associated with another island as an alternative solution. However, research and computer simulations have excluded such a possibility. Nevertheless, we must take into account the laborious way with which research and particualrly Orthodox Theological Science moves, because the acceptance of a theory so revolutionary requires indisputable truth as its foundation.

At this point it must be noted that there are two churches in Cephalonia that shout out St. Paul's connection to the island as far back as Byzantine times. They are the only two chapels in western Greece that are dedicated to St. Paul. These two Cephalonian churches, in the absence of other folklore evidence, provide popular and even ecclesiastic proof of Cephalonia's Apostolic Tradition. In my humble opinion, the two churches in St. Paul's name are by themselves enough to undisputedly document His association with Cephalonia. Their locations are significant on their own. One was found in Pessada where the shipwrecked Apostle must have had the headquarters of his missionary activities. The other was found in Vatsa, on the southern part of the Palliki peninsula, an ancient harbour for ships departing for Italy. Both churches are monuments to the shipwreck regardless of its exact location. An admirable initiative was undertaken by the people of Pessada who decided to reconstruct the church of St. Paul in the same area. The inaguration ceremony was performed by His Eminence Archbishop of Athen and All Greece Christodoulos on August 29th 1999 in the presence of island officials and a large congregation. The Church of Cephalonia is thus established ecclesiastically - with a large degree of certainty - as an Apostolic Church. For this reason the Holy Synod entered the Church of Cephalonia into the body of Apostolic Churches. During the year 2000 festive liturgies were held in the Apostolic Churches in the presence of His Eminence. The Head of the Church of Greece performed the sacred liturgy at St. Gerasimos Convent on the day commemorating Cephalonia's Patron Saint (October 20, 2000).

The Holy Synod was represented at the Cephalonia Conference by the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Patras Nikodimos who addressed the Conference. The sessions were attended by Metropolitans: Amvrosios of Kalavryta and Aigialia, Panteleimon of Veroia and Naoussa, Alexandros of Stavropigion, local officials, representatives of Cephalonian Associations and other island organizations. One of the sessions was attended by the visiting (then) Minister of national Education and Religion Mr. Gerasimos Arsenis, who also addressed the Conference.

The impressions left by the Conference and the ecclesiastic value from its sessions may be best summarized in the following paragraph taken from a letter sent by His Eminenence the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to the Most Reverend metropolitan of cephalonia Spyridon, upon his departure from the island on August 30, 1999:

"...Especially concerning the works of the scientific Conference, I wish to congratulate you on the progress made in the direction of searching for th truth, and to note that the elimination of the island of Malta as biblical Meliti, is a supreme prerequisite for focusing the efforts to proving that Cephalonia is actually Meliti. Having lived the atmosphere of the Conference, I believe that the admirable efforts of the specialized scientists, encouraged by your examplary moral and material support, will bring to a desirable end this scientific endeavor and will give us the joy of classifying your local Church as Apostolic."