-> News -> News Article
Archbishop Demetrios leads pilgrimage for twenty-year anniversary celebrations for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and with the participation of the entire Eparchial Synod of our Holy Archdiocese of America, over fifty Archons and other pilgrims traveled to Constantinople in order to honor the twentieth anniversary of the election and enthronement of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
Upon their arrival in Constantinople on October 20, the pilgrims travelled to the historic Baloukli Monastery, where they visited the underground shrine and Holy Spring of Zoodochos Pege (Life-Giving Spring) and the adjacent cemetery, where an impromptu Trisagion was held at the burial site of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I (1948-72), former Archbishop of North and South America (1930-48). Later that evening, a welcome dinner was hosted at the Divan Hotel by Archbishop Demetrios.
The next day, October 21, the pilgrims participated in a full day of guided sight-seeing, beginning at the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, now a museum, where they observed the stunning mosaics and frescoes. The pilgrims later moved on to the Hippodrome and the grand Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, which was completed under Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537 AD.
That evening, a reception and banquet was hosted for His All-Holiness at the elegant Four Seasons Bosphorous Hotel. Over 400 guests attended the banquet. In his welcome remarks, National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, noted that "the twenty-year Patriarchal Ministry of His All-Holiness is one of a few unparalleled diakonias in the 1700 year history of the Sacred See of Saint Andrew not only in terms of longevity, for His All-Holiness is one of only nine Ecumenical Patriarchs who have served for more than twenty years, but more importantly in substantive accomplishment." Dr. Limberakis highlighted many of the extraordinary accomplishments of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, from the ecclesiastical, global, political, inter-Orthodox, environmental and ecumenical perspectives. Among other things, Dr. Limberakis emphasized the breakthrough initiatives pioneered by His All-Holiness, including the luminary sessions of the Synaxis of the Heads of all Autocephalous Churches; the Tolerance and Peace Conferences and post 9-11 international conferences seeking greater interfaith understanding through dialogue with Jews, Christians and Muslims; the strengthening of bonds with other confessions; and the tireless efforts to promote Pan-Orthodox cooperation. Dr. Limberakis further noted His All-Holiness's devotion to the environment, for which he has been recognized as one of the leading conservationists of our time, earning the title "Green Patriarch."
In his banquet toast, Archon Constantine G. Caras, Chairman of Leadership 100, noted the tireless devotion and steady guidance of His All-Holiness: "You have been a good shepherd for your flock, always ready, as you promised in your address on the day of your enthronement, to sacrifice your soul for your sheep." Archon Caras then made his toast, based on Psalm 20, asking that the Lord protect His All-Holiness, remember his offerings and fulfill all of his petitions.
His Excellency Francis Ricciardone, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, echoed these sentiments and praised His All-Holiness's inspirational leadership, stating: "With his deep love for God, for His Creation, and for all mankind, and with his tireless commitment to interfaith dialogue and the protection of the environment for future generations, His All-Holiness Bartholomew has inspired millions around the world, no matter whom they recognize as their Prophet. I feel blessed to have first met him 16 years ago with then-First Lady Clinton, and many times since then; and deeply honored to join in celebrating the 20th anniversary of his accession to the Ecumenical Patriarchate." The Ambassador later delivered remarks offered by President Barack Obama, former President George Herbert Walker Bush and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Archon Laki Vingas, the official representative of all the religious minority foundations in Turkey, also read a letter of congratulations from President Abdullah Gul of Turkey and mentioned that he also had official greetings from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the foreign minister of Turkey.
In his remarks, Archbishop Demetrios of America recognized His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as the "Serving Patriarch" by making reference to the Gospel of Luke when the Lord, during a dispute amongst His disciples, said to them, but I am among you as one who serves (Luke 22:27). His Eminence continued saying that "Our Most Holy and beloved Patriarch is a true servant of God who, through his intense, eloquent and continuous offering of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, serves and ministers the people in every part of the Earth while seeking peace and reconciliation for all mankind… Under not the best conditions, he is serving in spite of obstacles and sometimes insurmountable difficulties. He has elevated the image and the spiritual authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch in a level unheard of before... This 'Serving Patriarch' we honor tonight for the 20th anniversary of his Enthronement. We pray that the Lord gives him plenty of years to continue His truly wonderful work teaching with love and truth the Gospel to our wounded, troubled and confused world."
In his address, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew told the guests that the past twenty years had been "filled with numerous and diverse blessings for all of us and for our Church throughout the world. Unexpected and unimagined gifts have been showered upon the Great Church of Christ and its faithful children." His All-Holiness gave thanks for these gifts and expressed gratitude towards his predecessors on the Throne of Constantinople, emphasizing that "we are beholden to all those who have preserved our Church - often under difficult, if not impossible conditions - for the future generations." He concluded his remarks with heartfelt appreciation to the Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew for their exemplary devotion, efforts and achievements "in order to uphold and honor the venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Modesty, soothing our pain and lightening our burden over these years."
At the conclusion of the banquet, Archbishop Demetrios, assisted by National Commander Limberakis and Sergeant of Arms Alex Pritsos, presented a hand crafted American Chelsea clock, depicting the Patriarchal 20th anniversary emblem, to His All-Holiness. The gift was presented on behalf of the Order and the delegation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
On Saturday, October 22, the pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy with a Patriarchal Chorostasia in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the enthronement of His All-Holiness at Saint George Cathedral at the Phanar. A great number of hierarchs were in attendance for this service. Following the service, a delegation comprised of the Archon National Council members and Regional Commanders participating in the pilgrimage, as well as Archon Nicholas Caracostas of AHEPA, met with His Excellency Egemen Bağış, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, at the offices of the Ministry. The delegation, led by Dr. Limberakis and Archon Spiritual Advisor, Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, thanked Minister Bağış for his ongoing efforts in support of religious freedom. The meeting participants also discussed numerous matters of importance to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the recent decree by Prime Minister Erdoğan regarding the return of confiscated properties to minority communities in Turkey, which the Archon leadership recognized as a "dramatic and courageous move" and "a bold gesture." During the meeting, Minister Bağış expressed his deep admiration for His All-Holiness, calling him a good citizen and asset of the Turkish State.
That evening, the pilgrims attended a reception hosted by the Orthodox Christian Community of Istanbul at the newly renovated Assembly Hall of the Galata Primary School.
On Sunday, October 23, the Feast Day of St. Iakovos, the pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy at St. George Cathedral, which was concelebrated by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, who was visiting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, four Metropolitans of the Serbian Church and four Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne including our own Archbishop Demetrios of America.
The pilgrimage was a celebration marking a major milestone for a unique personality in our Church, honoring a man who has transcended all boundaries to become a true "world-wide father," and a truly servant Patriarch in imitation of our serving God.