Pan-Orthodox Service and AHEPA Banquet in Washington, DC. (Photo by GOA/Dimitrios Panagos)
WASHINGTON, DC – Amid concerns about the health of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew after he was taken to George Washington University Hospital for observation on Sunday, October 24, a day after his arrival in the United States for a whirlwind historic visit, the Order of AHEPA honored him in abstentia at its 45th Biennial AHEPA Congressional Banquet that evening.
The Patriarch’s being indisposed was attributed to accumulated fatigue and the stress of the long transatlantic flight. Reports Monday morning indicated he is expected to resume his schedule today, including visits with President Joe Biden at the White House and leaders of Congress on Capital Hill.
At the renowned Mayflower hotel whose ballroom was packed on Sunday evening, host Nicholas A. Karacostas, AHEPA Board of Trustees President and Past Supreme President, Emcee Mike Emanuel, Chief Washington Correspondent, FOX News, and AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas deftly maintained an atmosphere of both prayerful concern and a joyous welcome for the first Pastoral visit of His All Holiness since 2009 to the largest and most important eparchy of the Patriarchate.
The visit is significant because it comes at a time of increasing threats and pressure from Turkey but also the presidency of Biden, perhaps the most philhellenic president in U.S. history and a longstanding friend of Orthodoxy and the Patriarch himself, having met him several times during the latter’s 30 years of service – the longest tenure of any Ecumenical Patriarch in Orthodox history, which will soon be celebrated on November 2.
Monday morning, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros tweeted: “I am delighted to announce to all that our spiritual father, His All-Holiness, weas just released from hospital. He is feeling well and is ready to continue his official Apostolic Visit.”
At the AHEPA Banquet, the Patriarch was represented by Geron Metropolitan of Chalcedon Emanuel, leading member of the Patriarchal delegation, who addressed the gathering and conveyed the Patriarch’s blessings and good wishes as he invited the prayers of the guests, words echoed by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
Among the Congressional leaders who spoke were Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Carolyn Maloney, John Sarbanes, and Nicole Malliotakis, and Senator Chris Van Hollen. Kokotas was joined in making remarks by Grand President of the Daughters of Penelope Kathy Bizoukas.
The dominant theme of the evening’s speeches and comments, interspersed with best wishes and prayers for the Patriarch, was praise for the energy, intelligence, dedication, and spiritual force of His All Holiness, both for his leadership in the Orthodox world and as spiritual father of the Church in America, as well as for his renown as a leading voice in the world for Christian unity, religious tolerance, and respect for the environment, which he never ceases to remind is a gift of God to humanity, which is responsible for stewardship of the Earth.
Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and member of AHEPA Michael Psaros was keynote speaker.
Moving renditions of the national anthems of Greece and Cyprus were presented by Costas Tsourakis, joined by many in attendance, including Greece’s Ambassador to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulos and its Consul General in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras.
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