The GreekAmerican - May 30, 1998

Patriarch's Visit Welcomes the New and Advises the Old

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the monastery of St. Irene Chrysova- lantou in Astoria.

NEW YORK - The Ecumenical Patriarch arrived in Astoria on Saturday afternoon to visit the monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou, an Old Calendar Church that in April was accepted into the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to the United States not only gave him the opportunity to receive St. Irene, but also to address the rift between some Church leaders and Archbishop Spyridon.

The visit to Astoria was scheduled as a short prelude to his week-long historical trip to Canada — the first time an ecumenical patriarch has visited that country. By appearing at St. Irene Chrysovalantou, the patriarch reinforced the union made between the Old Calendarists and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The community in Astoria celebrated his arrival.

On the corner of 31st Street and 23rd Avenue, Orthodox Christians gathered to greet the patriarch. The streets were lined with spectators waiting to get a glimpse of the leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians. White flags with the emblem of the Patriarchate and pins with Patriarch Bartholomew's picture were distributed to the crowd.

Police secured 23rd Avenue from 31st Street, where the patriarch was arriving, to the entrance of the church, 36-07 23rd Avenue. Once the caravan of cars escorting the patriarch appeared, the crowds started applauding and calling out "Axios."

Clergy from around New York and the United States were part of a procession that led Patriarch Bartholomew down 23rd Avenue to St. Irene Chrysovalantou. The patriarch blessed the crowd as he walked toward the church, while the crowd sang the hymn "Christos Anesti." Near the church's entrance, a trailer was prepared for distinguished guests and clergy. Straight ahead of the trailer, a banner with the symbol of the Patriarchate draped over the bridge at 36th Street.

Speaker Peter Vallone welcomed Patriarch Bartholomew to Astoria, saying that "we know this will always be holy and sacred ground." In honor of the visit, he announced, "we will proclaim this street Patriarch Bartholomew Way." The blue and white street sign had already been installed prior to the patriarch's arrival.

Archbishop Spyridon welcomed the patriarch and remarked that renaming the street confirmed Astoria as the center of Hellenism in the United States. He introduced the patriarch as the "leader of world Orthodoxy."

Patriarch Bartholomew began by thanking his hosts for their warm greeting. In addition, the patriarch thanked God for what he called the "restoration" of the Church. This "miracle of divine grace," he said, allowed the misguided to return to the "maternal bosom" of the Church. At the conclusion of his opening remarks, clergy followed the patriarch into the St. Irene church for a vesper service. Since seats inside the church were reserved for dignitaries, a majority of the people listened to the service from the outside via a speaker system.

At the end of the service, the spiritual leader welcomed the St. Irene community to the Church. "Words air not adequate to express the joy of this meeting and the reconciliation of our hearts in Christ," said the patriarch, and blessing the St. Irene community, he said: "We rejoice from the Mother Church and from my own heart for all the children that have gathered hack tinder her wings."

As Patriarch Bartholomew exited the church, people cheered and children from the church's dance group performed for him George Poulos stood outside the church while the patriarch preached to the community. "I feel good," he said.

"It's nice that he came here and recognized Astoria as the center of Hellenism," expressed Mr. Poulos. As for the patriarch's remarks on the acceptance of St. Irene into the canonical church, Mr. Poulos said: "I think he is on point. People of one faith should be united."

Another community member, Barbara Ignatiades, said that this was her first time seeing the patriarch, and she was inspired by his visit.

Harry Nicholas, an Astoria resident, said he felt lucky to be living in this city to witness the patriarch's visit.

While in the United States, Patriarch Bartholomew's itinerary included attending a dinner held in his honor, a service at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a honorary degree ceremony at Yale University.

At a dinner in Tarrytown, New York, Patriarch Bartholomew once again spoke on behalf of unity in the Church. Specifically, he acknowledged the fallibility of leaders, and the importance of the community's role in assisting leaders with their decisions. "For this is the responsibility of a true leader.

And for us who surround him, the duty is to pinpoint the mistakes and suggest the point of our correction, not a riotous decrial of one who has made a mistake and the call for his head on a silver platter," said Patriarch Bartholomew.

The advice given by the patriarch comes at a time when the Archdiocese has been criticized by a group named Greek Orthodox American Leaders (GOAL). Individuals, who had complaints about the archbishop's leadership abilities, formed the organization as a way of reaching out to the community for support. GOAL's first national conference in March, attended by approximately 400 people at Chicago's Westin Hotel, produced resolutions requesting the resignation or removal of Archbishop Spyridon. On May 1 —the deadline given to Archbishop Spyridon for responding to the group's concerns— GOAL formally requested the archbishop's resignation, since no communication was received from the Archdiocese. Recently, Archbishop Spyridon invited representatives from GOAL to attend a meeting on June 1 to discuss GOAL's concerns.

The Patriarch left on Monday from Connecticut to Ottawa, Canada, where he is to be received by Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios, Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and other dignitaries, and will go on to visit Vancouver, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, and Montreal.

[ The GreekAmerican - May 30, 1998 - p. _ ]