Dean Franck is a first year student in the Master's of Divinity Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
The beautiful news is that in the Orthodox Christian Faith, we have come to know some of the most sacred places on earth. The sad news is we lost an incredible reporter last week. Harry Radliffe of CBS News, died on December 1, 2015 at the age of 66. Harry got the chance of his lifetime, to visit and produce a special 60 Minutes on Mt. Athos, a place many have claimed as the most sacred place on earth.
From the CBS News article, Remembering Harry Radliffe II, “The Beloved 60 Minutes producer contributed nearly 100 stories over 26 years.” Here you will also find the clip from 60 Minutes Overtime, Harry’s Emotional Return to Mount Athos, where we learn he received the nickname ‘Beloved’ from the monks. Photo credit: video still above from the same article.
Mount Athos has been an Orthodox Christian spiritual center since 1054. It is widely believed to be the most sacred place on earth and has some 20 monasteries, countless smaller monastic dwellings and sketes, and some estimated 1400 monks. The peninsula upon which Mount Athos rises toward heaven, lies southeast of Thessaloniki, Greece, and is cloaked in luscious green forests, surrounded by crystal blue seas. “Mount Athos is situated in the entire third, eastern and most beautiful peninsula of Halkidiki, called the peninsula of Athos. It is the only place in Greece that is completely dedicated to prayer and worship of God (for more info click here).” Only men inhabit the peninsula and only men are allowed on the peninsula.
“According to tradition, the Virgin Mary with John the Evangelist, or their way to visit Lazarus in Cyprus, encountered a stormy sea that forced them to temporarily seek refuge in the port which is now the Holy Monastery of Ivira. The Virgin Mary, admiring the wild beauty of the place, asked God to give her the mountain as a present. Then the voice of our Lord was heard saying: ‘Let this place be your lot, your garden and your paradise, as well as a salvation, a haven for those who seek salvation.’ Since then, Mount Athos is considered as ‘The Garden of the Virgin Mary.’ In the 5th century AD, the first monks came to Mount Athos, who disappointed from the boredom of everyday communal life, found this beautiful and uninhabited place ideal for worship their God (for more info click here).”
In May of 2011, Harry Radliffe was able to visit the Holy Mountain in a CBS 60 Minutes special entitled “Mt. Athos: A visit to the Holy Mountain.” It took much correspondence and many years to gain access to the Holy Mountain and conduct the interview. Since CBS’s story on the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos seemed to be at the center of Harry Radcliffe’s heart. He says in the subsequent interview with 60 Minutes entitled “Harry’s Emotional Return to Mount Athos,” “I have done lots of stories for 60 Minutes, I have never earned the nickname ‘beloved’ before.” In the next words of the interview, Mr. Radliffe began to tear up, so incredibly touched by the monastics in a very intangible way. It was not just the words “beloved” that pricked Mr. Radcliffe’s heart, but the compunction and love of Christ derived from their presence. Mr. Radcliffe said his experience on Mount Athos was so unusual that “it didn’t seem right, not to thank them.” After the story was completed the monks were very happy they had cooperated with Mr. Radcliffe and CBS. It was very clear that Mr. Radliffe was just as grateful as the tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Harry first joined 60 Minutes in 1989 after serving as CBS News’ first African-American bureau chief in London, where he indulged a lifelong interest in foreign affairs. Even as a high school student in Indiana, he sent away for The Manchester Guardian newspaper to broaden his own horizons. In later years, he could never quite shake the feeling that he was just a ‘kid from Indianapolis’ who lucked into a stunning career (Remembering Harry Radliffe II).”
Since the time of joining CBS until his death, Mr. Radliffe covered many powerful stories. “Harry’s enormous body of work at 60 Minutes – nearly 100 stories in all – is notable for its tremendous range. He visited cities in the Middle East, forests in Central Africa and, through a telescope, the farthest reaches of outer space. His profiles were no less diverse — a roster that included LeBron James, Toni Morrison and Elon Musk. While Harry refused to name “favorite” stories, he did consider his segment on Mount Athos, a community of ancient Christian Orthodox monasteries on a remote peninsula in northern Greece, one of the most extraordinary. He described it as a ‘visit to another world’ and it’s easy to see why — few film crews have ever been allowed inside. Harry’s team was the first in 40 years, and only after years of trying. ‘I think that’s one of the special things about this broadcast,’ he said. ‘That you can decide to go off and chase an impossible dream (Remembering Harry Radliffe II).’”
Mr. Radliffe will be missed, but his legacy, stories like this one about Mount Athos, will long outlive him. It is clear that God wanted such a genuine soul to encounter “The Garden of the Virgin Mary.” May we pray for the repose of the soul Harry Radliffe and his family. Eternal be his memory.
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