It was officially announced last week from the Phanar that the planned visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States will take place, thus putting an end to the many and various speculations. The visit was rightly and wisely postponed in May 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
However, even now the Patriarch is not coming under the best conditions, since there is an outbreak of the Delta variant, which is equally dangerous, but also more contagious, according to experts in infectious diseases and pulmonology.
As an example, I can point out that in the state of Massachusetts, where for a while the new cases had decreased to an average of 33 daily, in recent days they are hitting new heights and range from 1,850 to 2,200. Similar conditions exist in other states.
I do not know whether under these circumstances the visit of the Patriarch will be of the magnitude of success and prestige befitting the great gravity of the ecumenicity and catholicity of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, because it would be ignominious and perhaps humiliating to be limited to an absolutely necessary reduced number and scale of activities. As for the ‘Thiranixia’ of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, which has been talked about so much, I do not think it is urgent, since the church has not been completed and the interior liturgical decoration does not exist. And one more thing, when we say Thiranixia, we have to understand the church’s inauguration with the consecration of the Holy Table, signaling that “a new altar of the Lord has been created,” and not just a simple opening of the doors. Perhaps postponing the visit for a few months until June 2022, so that it coincides with the Clergy-Laity Congress and the centenary of the founding of the Archdiocese would have been more appropriate, because there is a possibility of the pandemic receding, without, of course, any guarantee from anyone for such a thing. If there is an outbreak of cases due to the visit of the Patriarch, did we really think about the possible impact of his visit? Let us hope and pray that everything goes well.
Undoubtedly, the visit of the Patriarch is a leading event for the Church and the Omogenia, since ecclesiologically speaking, the Patriarch is the pre-eminent Archbishop, Shepherd and Spiritual Father of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, as it is an Ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, the most dynamic, the richest (materially) and the largest (numerically). Two years ago, the current Archbishop, Elpidophoros, and also his predecessors before him, were enthroned in the name of the Patriarch. In the “first commemoration of the Eucharist,” Elpidophoros mentions the name of the Patriarch, uttering specifically: “among the first, remember, Lord, our Archbishop and Patriarch Bartholomew….” That is why the rumor-mongering that has begun about the new Charter from ignorant and insignificant people from some metropolises with the well-known subliminal tricks of some metropolitans according to their old filial methods are literally picturesque.
The Charter is essentially a gift of the Ecumenical Patriarch to his Ecclesiastical Eparchy, the Archdiocese of America. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the Superior Authority (Πρωτουργός Αρχή) and consequently the Granting Authority (η Χορηγούσα Αρχή), and can at any time grant the Charter or revoke it, as it did on Thursday, October 8, 2020. Even Autonomy or a Tomos of Autocephaly can be revoked by the Patriarch and the Synod. The ‘democratic’ and ‘participatory’ process is a Protestantizing religiosity.
I will remind you of something else, without considering this memory as merely an echo of the past, but what has historically been imprinted as a fact, that if in 1994 the ‘coup of Ligonier’ had not been prevented in time, His All Holiness could not have visited us here, blessed and holy to us all. To speak plainly, and those who have mind, let them take heed…and remember. If the former Metropolitan Joachim of Chalcedon and today of Nicomedia was able to speak and communicate he would have testified to the foregoing. And certainly, His All Holiness remembers details.
I have said other times that the current Patriarch Bartholomew is indeed a man full of spiritual gifts and bequests from above, without this meaning that he is infallible. After all, no one is infallible except God. His physical and spiritual strength and endurance are astonishing and amazing, given that years have passed and today, he is eighty years old. Even a cursory glance at his daily and weekly schedule leaves you amazed and wondering how he manages all these things.
It is a fact that Patriarch Bartholomew belongs to the category of people who are truly irreplaceable. Of course, I am not ignorant of the games in which some aspiring successors in Constantinople and elsewhere are engaged, and I am sure they make the Patriarch feel bad, after he did everything for them, making them what they are today. And instead of engaging in the mission assigned to them by the Church, they talk about his succession at a time when the Patriarch is on Earth, healthy in every way, and as we say in my birthplace Lesvos when we want to say that someone is healthy and strong, “here he steps and there he is.”
As I write this analysis, I do not know the detailed schedule of the visit. Undoubtedly, in order to establish a program for a Patriarchal visitation, and in fact to the most eminent empire of the modern world, which is the United States, it takes effort, toil, skills, innumerable high acquaintances and access to open the appropriate doors, to receive the appropriate updates, and to be a program worthy of the historic Throne of His All-Holiness.
And one more thing, now that the Patriarch is coming here, he has a golden opportunity to remind some of his subordinates that the Church of America is an extension of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that whatever they do, good or bad, reflects on him and on the Ecumenical Patriarchate.