BOSTON – Archon of the Ecumenical Throne Michael Psaros discussed the Apostolic visit of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with The National Herald, calling it “of extraordinarily historical importance.”
Psaros also revealed his inspiration in establishing at his alma mater, the prestigious Georgetown University, a Chair in honor of Patriarch Bartholomew. He said, “I am who I am today because of my family, the Holy Orthodox Church, and Georgetown University. Each share and reinforce the same values and value system. This Endowment was the opportunity for my family to give back to the Church and the University with one gift.”
He also spoke about the visit of His All Holiness to his home town of Weirton, WV, his home parish of All-Saints, and most especially his Yiayia’s house, now called Evyenia’s House of Hope.
The entire interview follows:
The National Herald: What are your thoughts about the visit of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States?
Archon Michael Psaros: His All Holiness is visiting the United States for the first time in twelve years. This Patriarchal trip is of extraordinarily historical importance. The Holy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is the most important Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne. We are the daughter of our Mother Church. It is Constantinople that provides the Church in America with a direct link to the Apostolic succession. The Holy Archdiocese is not an island, but rather a member of a worldwide Apostolic Church with 300 million adherents. This Patriarchal trip will reinforce the familial bond between the Faithful in America with our brother and sister Orthodox Christians worldwide, through the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Spiritual Father of us all.
His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, has restored the centrality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America. He commemorates His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, in every Liturgy he celebrates.
The timing of this Patriarchal trip is also critical, as it occurs during the year of the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the Holy Archdiocese of America and for the ‘Thyranixia’ ceremony for the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero.
TNH: How do you feel about the fact that the Patriarch will officiate the Thyranixia of the St. Nicholas National Shrine, to which you have contributed so much time, funds, and effort in order for it to be completed?
MP: The Faithful throughout the Holy Archdiocese and the Friends of St. Nicholas are humbled that the Thyranixia will be officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch, leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians. St. Nicholas National Shrine is Holy Orthodoxy’s missionary witness in the United States. St. Nicholas is the only house of worship at Ground Zero and it will be one of the most visited Churches in our country and the most visited Orthodox Church in the world by non-Orthodox. St. Nicholas National Shrine stands as a cenotaph for the 3,000 people who were martyred that fateful day. The St. Nicholas National Shrine is our American Parthenon and our American St. Sophia. This edifice will last for the next thousand years as the most visible symbol of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in the United States – St. Nicholas matters. Therefore, it is appropriate that this Service be officiated by the Ecumenical Patriarch himself. On November 2nd, we will all be witness to history.
TNH: Did you ever dream that an Ecumenical Patriarch will visit the parish and the town of your birth and upbringing?
MP: My entire family is extraordinarily humbled and in disbelief that His All Holiness is going to visit our hometown and my Yiayia’s house (now Evyenia’s House of Hope). it is incomprehensible that the Ecumenical Patriarch will conduct a Trisagion Service for my Family in Yiayia’s house. How would you feel? How would your family feel? How can any normal person process this? This Patriarchal visit and Trisagion Service will be the most important event that has happened to my family since we immigrated from Greece and Asia Minor in the 1920s and 1930s. This day will be the blessing of all blessings for all time. There is no way to express our appreciation.
My Parish, All Saints Greek Orthodox Church, in Weirton, West VA is as humbled as we are overjoyed. We have been preparing for two years. Once again, it is incomprehensible that the Ecumenical Patriarch is going to visit our Parish. All Saints is a beacon of Orthodoxy in the Ohio Valley. Weirton is not New York, where I have lived for decades. The Parishioners of All Saints are now mostly second, third, and fourth generation Greek Americans and Orthodox Christians. The Parishioners must fight to keep this gleaming multifaceted jewel of a Church alive every day and every week of the year. The visit by His All Holiness is a celebration of the hundreds and hundreds of small Parishes in small towns throughout the United States and the Holy Archdiocese, and a recognition of their importance. His Patriarchal visit makes an emphatic statement that Holy Orthodoxy must continue to thrive in our small towns, in our small parishes. He could have limited his trip to celebrating Services in our great Cathedrals but made the decision to bring his Patriarchal blessings to All Saints. By visiting Weirton, His All Holiness symbolically visits the hundreds of other small Parishes in the United States.”
TNH: You serve on the Board of Directors of Georgetown University and as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Advisors of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. You created The Michael and Robin Psaros Endowed Chair in Business Administration in 2013. What inspired you to create a second Chair?
MP: The ‘Ecumenical Bartholomew Endowed Chaplaincy, Endowed by the Michael Psaros Family,’ was announced on Monday, October 25th when His All Holiness was received by the University in a manner befitting a head of state.
TNH: After inquiries, it is my understanding an endowed position at Georgetown requires $3 million of funding.
MP: Five years ago, Georgetown University, the oldest and most prestigious Roman Catholic University in the United States, asked me to underwrite the cost required to construct a custom Iconostasis and new Icons in the ‘Sacred Space’ of Copley Crypt in the Copley Building. The Healy and Copley Buildings at Georgetown University pre-date the creation of the District of Columbia.
I was overwhelmed by the ecumenical overture from Georgetown University to the Orthodox Community, and, therefore, this symbolic ecumenical overture from the Western Church to the Eastern Church. I cried when I got the call, but was not surprised – this is Georgetown University, one of the first true global and international universities in the United Studies – the first U.S. university to have a School of Foreign Service, the first to have a Business School with an international focus, and the foremost university in our nation’s capital. It is also a university that celebrates faith and service.
I am who I am today because of my family, the Holy Orthodox Church, and Georgetown University. Each share and reinforce the same values and value system. This Endowment was the opportunity for my family to give back to the Church and the University with one gift. We first had to obtain the blessing, of His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros, as Exarch of the Patriarch in the United States.
The work of the Iconographer I had the University commission, Mr. Phillipakis, is breathtaking. He was recommended by my mentor and friend, Father Alexander Karloutsos. The crucial Icon is the Icon of St. Andrew, first called of the Apostles, embracing his brother, St. Peter. I thought of this because I had the blessing of being part of the Accompanying Delegation for the ‘Great Encounter’, when His All Holiness met Pope Francis in Jerusalem. The Ecumenical Patriarch and Pope greeted each other with the words “My Brother Andrew, My Brother Peter.” This Icon symbolizes that moment and their fraternal love and respect.
His All Holiness blessed the Iconostasis and Icons in a private ceremony, and then was hosted for dinner by the University in a manner worthy of his station. On the occasion of this historic Patriarchal visit, my family announced the creation of ‘The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Endowed Chaplaincy, Endowed by the Michael Psaros Family.’ This Endowment will fund the Orthodox Chaplaincy/Ministry into perpetuity. Georgetown University is almost 300 years old. This Endowment will result in the very tangible presence of Holy Orthodoxy at the University for the next three centuries and more. It is fitting, that Georgetown University now is in possession of a true Patriarchal Chair, in the name of Patriarch Bartholomew. I also believe it will act as a magnet for additional gifts by Orthodox Faithful worldwide, especially from our alumni.
The opportunity to make this gift is the blessing of blessings, especially on this historic visit.
Georgetown University presented His All Holiness with an honorary degree years ago.