His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addresses dinner guests at Georgetown University. (Photo by TNH/Constantine S. Sirigos)
WASHINGTON, DC – Communities survive and thrive through the combined and concerted efforts of institutions, individuals, and families – a truth beautifully demonstrated at Georgetown University on October 25 when Archon of the Ecumenical Throne Michael Psaros established `The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Endowed Orthodox Chaplaincy, by the Michael Psaros Family’ in honor of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The intimate but moving ceremony in the sacred space of the Copley Crypt, where Orthodox services are held, was attended by Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, and current students.
His All Holiness, recovering from a hospitalization reportedly motivated by an abundance of caution the day before when he felt indisposed after an exhausting international journey that began in Constantinople, was moved both by the welcome and the generosity of the donation.
“Thank you for your kind words of welcome,” he said to Cardinal Gregory before presenting him with the gift of a Byzantine pectoral cross. He then expressed his deep gratitude to the Psaros family.
Psaros told The National Herald, “it is also important that this Endowed Orthodox Chaplaincy was created on the 30th anniversary” of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s enthronement as the 270th bishop of Constantinople.
Cardinal Wilton spotlighted both the Patriarch’s efforts for the protection the environment and his endeavors promoting Christian unity and religious peace and freedom. The latter, often called `the Green Patriarch’ for being a champion of environmental issues, including climate change, warmly reminisced about his numerous meetings with Pope Francis and emphasized the scriptural basis for humanity’s responsibility to be environmental stewards and `priests of creation.’
Patriarch Bartholomew also spoke of the joy he feels about being able to visit and bless his flock in America, and to observe first hand the excellent fruits of the labors of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
While visitors to Crypt are immediately struck by the sublimity and beauty of the iconostasis icons donated by the Psaros family, the aesthetic and spiritual focus of the beautifully restored Gothic space whose previous highlight was a western icon of the Crucifixion done in the Byzantine style is a moving icon of St. Peter embracing his brother St. Andrew, the `first called’ of the Apostles and founder of the See of Constantinople. The icon symbolizes siblinghood between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.
Psaros noted that, “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.”
For the Orthodox students present, it was an especially moving experience. Antonia Sames said, “growing up in the Orthodox Church all my life, and as an active member of the Church and community, it is an exceptional joy and blessing to welcome His All Holiness to our academic home.”
Joey Mavrogiannis added that, “for any Orthodox Christian, including myself, the hierarchs like the Ecumenical Patriarch are living representations of the faith, encouraging us to continually live it out daily and strive to keep tradition alive for future generations to likewise experience this unique event.”
The journey to the Psaros family’s gift of the Endowment, which will fund the Orthodox Chaplaincy/Ministry in perpetuity, began 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… 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.”
As the guests were about to leave the Crypt and proceed to the wonderful dinner in honor of the Patriarch and the Psaros family in a neighboring building, the Patriarch said to the Cardinal, “we hope to see you in Constantinople – whenever you like.”
The dinner was attended by university officials, Orthodox Christian alums, and prominent Greek-Americans.
This chaplaincy, which entails a commitment of approximately $3 million, is the Psaros family’s second endowment at Georgetown. In 2013 they created `The Michael and Robin Psaros Endowed Chair in Business Administration.’
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