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Archdiocese of Palermo and All Italy

Chiesa Autocefala Ortodossa Ucraina
Arcidiocesi di Palermo e di tutta l'Italia




Cross of Merit of Saint Nicodemus
Bishop of Palermo

Historical Background

From shortly after our Lord's time on earth there has been a Christian presence in Sicily. It is known that Saint Paul preached here, and the Faith spread throughout the island, notwithstanding various difficulties. Sicily produced many famous saints: bishops, priests, monks and nuns, martyrs killed during Roman and later Vandal persecutions, and many pious men and women of all social ranks and ways of life. The Orthodox Christian Church eventually became the spiritual home of all the Sicilian people, up until the time of the Saracen invasions. Though Moslem Arabs ruled Sicily from 827 to 1061, continuing in some parts of the island until 1091, much of the population remained faithful to the Church, and Sicily, with its bishops and monasteries to lead the people, maintained a strong Christian presence.

The Norman invasion in the late eleventh century changed all that. Islam eventually disappeared from Sicily, but it took centuries for the Normans and their descendents to impose the Latin confession on the local population. In Palermo alone there were twenty Orthodox Churches, and when the Normans beseiged and captured the city in 1072 they found its bishop, Nicodemus, leading his flock. The old Church of Saint Mary, which had been turned into a mosque two hundred and forty years previously, was reconsecrated and Nicodemus celebrated the Te Deum service. He was known for his kindness and humility, but the new rulers, after establishing their position, eventually sent him to live outside the city in an area now called Mezzomorreale. Bishop of Palermo from 1065, Saint Nicodemus died in 1083 and was the last Orthodox Bishop of Palermo for over nine hundred years, when the presence of an Orthodox Bishop in that city once again became a reality in the person of Bishop Lorenzo. The Saint's body is buried in a stone sarcophagus which today can be found in the crypt of the Norman era Palermo Cathedral.

The Cross of Merit

Founded on 5 May 2002, the Orthodox Feast of the Resurrection in that year, The Cross of Merit of Saint Nicodemus, Orthodox Bishop of Palermo, was instituted by his successor Bishop Lorenzo as an award of merit for those who serve the Church in Palermo or who are benefactors of that Church. It is given by moto proprio in the form of a diploma and a miniature medal, which is an eight-pointed cross, light blue in color and etched with gold, bearing the image of Saint Nicodemus and surrounded by the words "San Nicodemo Vescovo Ortodosso di Palermo 1065-1083". It hangs from a sky blue colored ribbon.

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