Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew hosts Metropolitan Herman, OCA delegation

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were on hand on Thursday, July 3, 2003 to welcome His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, as he arrived at the international airport here for a one-week visit with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Accompanied by Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, and the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Assistant to the Chancellor for Interchurch Relations and Ecumenical Witness, Metropolitan Herman was received warmly at the Patriarchate in Istanbul’s Phanar district.

The visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is Metropolitan Herman’s first since his election as OCA Primate in July 2002.

After exchanging greetings in Patriarch Bartholomew’s private office, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation met informally with the Patriarch and the Very Rev. Grand Archimandrite Athenagoras and discussed various topics related to world Orthodoxy today.

During their initial meeting, Metropolitan Herman, on behalf of the faithful of the Orthodox Chruch in America, presented Patriarch Bartholomew with an icon of their patrons, Saints Bartholomew and Herman of Alaska, depicted with Saint Tikhon the Confessor, in which relics of Saints Herman and Tikhon had been embedded. In accepting the icon, Patriarch Bartholomew expressed heartfelt thanks, noting that through the relics of these saints their presence is deeply felt.

Following the meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew and members of the Great and Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate hosted Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation at a luncheon.

On Friday morning, July 4, 2003, Metropolitan Herman and and the OCA delegation visited Istanbul’s Roman Catholic Basilica of the Holy Spirit and visited the Latin Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul, His Excellency, Bishop Louis Pelâtre. Bishop Pelâtre presented Metropolitan Herman with a book detailing the basilica’s history. Metropolitan Herman also toured the residence and chapel area, accompanied by Monsignor Georges Marovitch, Attaché to Istanbul of the Apostolic Nunciature in Turkey and Turkmenistan, and visited a chapel dedicated to the memory of the late Pope John XXIII, who had also served as Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Greece 1935-44 prior to his election to the Papal See in 1958.

Later the same day, patriarchal officials took Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation on a tour of the ancient Church of Hagia Sophia, the Holy Wisdom of Christ. Built by Emperor Justinian and consecrated in 537 AD by Patriarch Menas, the massive church was turned into a mosque after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. While today the church serves as a museum, numerous mosaics, including the magnificent image of the enthroned Virgin and Christ child in the central apse, survived the church’s stormy history.

Metropolitan Herman also visited the city’s Church of Saint Irene, the site of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 AD, and the famed 11th century Church of Our Saviour in Chora, which means “in the country.” Mr. Panayiotis Ozkurkutis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate explained the background of the churches’ exquisite late Byzantine-era mosaics, considered to be among the world’s finest. As in the case of Hagia Sophia, both churches are now museums.

The following morning, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation, accompanied by Deacon Neophytos, traveled to Nicea, the site of the First and Seventh Ecumenical Councils. Among the sites in Nicea visited was the Church of Hagia Sophia, site of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD, at which iconoclasm was condemned and the proper use of icons was restored to the Church’s liturgical life. They also visited the ancient Roman theater, in which over 3000 Christian women and children were martyred with bows and arrows, and the site of Constantine’s Palace, where the First Ecumenical Council was held, at which the Arian heresy was condemned and the first two portions of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed were formulated.

After returning to Istanbul by boat, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation met with the US Ambassador to Turkey, the Honorable W. Robert Pearson who flew in from Ankara, Turkey to meet with them at the residence of the US Consul General, Dr. David Arnett. After a tour of the complex conducted by Dr. Arnett, Ambassador Pearson and Political Officer Patrick Hannish briefed Metropolitan Herman on various aspects of religious and secular life in Turkey.

On Sunday, July 6, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation, accompanied by Mr. Jonathan Henike, Political Officer for the US Consulate General in Istanbul, departed by boat for the island of Halki, site of Holy Trinity Monastery and the Halki Theological School. The school, for many years the Patriarchate’s premier institution of theological study and research, was closed in the 1970s, although hopes remain high that it will be reopened in the near future.

His Eminence, Metropolitan Apostolos of Moshonissia, welcomed Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation. After attending the Divine Liturgy and receiving Holy Communion in Holy Trinity Church, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation enjoyed a luncheon hosted by Metropolitan Apostolos and Priestmonk Dorotheos and greeted other visitors to the monastery before returning to Istanbul.

Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Herman attended Matins and the Divine Liturgy at Istanbul’s Church of Saint Kyriaki on Monday, July 7, the church’s patronal feastday. Also present was His Eminence, Metropolitan Onufrey of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, who also was in Istanbul at the time. Following the services, a Memorial Service was celebrated at the tomb of the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras at the Panagia Monastery of Baloukli, commemorating the anniversary of his repose. At the luncheon which followed, Patriarch Bartholomew presented Metropolitan Herman with a unique and exquisite tile icon of Christ.

Later the same day, Metropolitan Herman, accompanied by Patrick Hannish of the US Consulate, met with Turkey’s Chief Rabbi, Rav Isak Haleva, and Bensiyon Pinto and Lina Filiba, President and Vice-President respectively of the country’s Jewish community, who detailed the life of Turkey’s minority faith communities.

The day ended with a dinner hosted by Patriarch Bartholomew at his private residence. In addition to Metropolitan Herman and members of the OCA delegation, guests included His Eminence, Metropolitan Emmanuel of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of France; Metropolitan Onufrey; His Highness, Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Undersecretary for Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain; and Dr. Mohammad Taher Alqattan, Assistant Secretary General for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Among the varied topics discussed during dinner was Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent visit to Bahrain, which marked the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch had visited the Kingdom.

Mr. Georges Benlisoy, Secretary for the Patriarchal Library, led Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation on a visit to Ephesus, near Izmir, Turkey, on Tuesday, July 8. It was in 431 AD that the Third Ecumenical Council, at which the Orthodox Faith was defended against the Nestorian heresy and the term “Theotokos” in reference to the Virgin Mary was defended and defined, was held in Ephesus. Metropolitan Herman and the delegation visited a Roman Catholic shrine at a place the Catholic Church associates with the site of the Virgin Mary’s home and Dormition. Other visited sites in and near Ephesus included the Church of Saint John the Theologian, the city’s ruins and the theater in which Saint Paul was stoned when he attempted to preach, and the Church of the Virgin Mary. While in Ephesus, Metropolitan Herman and members of the OCA delegation took turns reading from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians and the Gospel of Saint John.

Upon their return to Istanbul on Tuesday evening, Patriarch Bartholomew hosted Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation at the Panagia Women’s Monastery of Valoukli. Patriarch Bartholomew personally conducted a tour of the monastery, pointing out the tombs of the Ecumenical Patriarchs and the life-giving springs located in the monastery’s lower level. Other guests attending the dinner which followed included His Eminence, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk, Chairman of the External Affairs Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, who also was visiting Istanbul with the Very Rev. Nicholas Balashov; Metropolitan Emmanuel; and His Highness Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Khalifa. After enjoying dinner prepared by the monastic sisterhood, Metropolitan Herman expressed thanks on behalf of the guests to Patriarch Bartholomew for his warmth and the many expressions of kindness he had displayed during their visit.

After a private meeting between Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Herman, Father Kondratick and Father Kishkovsky on Wednesday, July 9, Metropolitan Herman met with the Chief Mufti of Istanbul, Bayram Erdogan, at which time they discussed various aspects of Turkey’s religious, social, and political life and exchanged gifts. Later the same day, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation were received by His Beatitude, Mesrob II, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, who conducted a tour of the patriarchal complex and cathedral. The day ended with a dinner hosted in Patriarch Bartholomew’s honor by Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation, at which time thanks were once again expressed for the Patriarch’s outstanding hospitality and fraternal love and warmth throughout the week-long visit.

“Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the ‘first among equals’ of the world’s Orthodox hierarchs,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “Metropolitan Herman’s visit to Orthodox Christianity’s ancient primatial See confirms the ties which already exist between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church in America and holds great promise for ongoing contact, mutual cooperation, and a renewed and strengthened bond of love and unity.”

Comprehensive photos of Metropolitan Herman’s visit to Constantinople will appear in the July / August issue of “The Orthodox Church” newspaper.