OCF pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate
On Saturday, March 8, 2014, at the request of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) program and with the blessing of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, eleven American college students traveled from New York to Istanbul for a pilgrimage organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The students received matching grants from the Kulis Foundation for the trip and were led by Fr. Evagoras Constantinides, Director of Ionian Village, and Ms. Donna Elias, OCF North American Programs Manager.
Arriving at the conclusion of the 2014 Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, the students attended the Concelebration of the Primates on the Sunday of Orthodoxy at the venerable Patriarchal Church of St. George, during which they were present for the official reading of the Message of the Primates from the Patriarchal Ambon and the procession of the Holy Icons afterward by the Primates.
His All-Holiness officially received the students on the Monday following the historic Synaxis. He also spoke to them about the centuries-old experience of the Mother Church, which they would have a first-hand encounter with on all levels over the course of six days.
Throughout their pilgrimage, the students met with and were addressed by Archbishop Anastasios of Albania on contemporary Orthodox missions and evangelism, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima on the ecumenical movement, Metropolitan Stephanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos on the spiritual ecumenicity of Orthodoxy, Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa on the Holy Theological School of Halki, Metropolitan Athenagoras of Kydonies on the Holy Myrrh and Chrismation, Archimandrite Bartholomew Samaras, Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod, on the Synodal system and Pan-Orthodox relations, Grand Archimandrite Bessarion of the Patriarchal Court on St. Euphemia and the implications of her holy life for Great Lent, Archimandrite Zacharias from the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex on our common identity in Christ, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis on the twenty-year ministry of His All-Holiness and Archon Lakis Vingas, representative of the Minority Foundations to the Turkish government, on the contemporary developments of the minority parishes of Istanbul. Additionally, the students had the opportunity to reflect upon other topics with their team, such as marriage and family life, the significance of liturgical and non-liturgical hymns in the life of the Church, as well as the celebrated miracles which have taken place in the life of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Furthermore, the students were hosted for dinner by two local parishes. They visited and learned about the former Churches of Haghia Sophia, Haghia Eirini, Christ the Savior in Chora, Panaghia Pammakaristos and Christ the Pantocrator in the Fatih district, the Synodikon of the Ecumenical Throne, the Holy Theological School of Halki and the Holy Trinity Monastery, the Life-Giving Spring Monastery and Patriarchal Tombs in Baloukli, the Cathedral Church of Panaghia in Pera, the Church of the Archangels in Arnavutköy, the Church of Panaghia Vlachernes, the Church of Panaghia in Yeniköy, the Great School of the Nation, where they presented the students with a gift of love, and the Grand Bazaar. Through this, they venerated numerous sacred relics, icons and springs (haghiasmata), including the relics of over twenty former saintly Ecumenical Patriarchs, Sts. Basil the Great, Euphemia, Solomone, Theophano and various new martyrs, as well as the column of Christ’s flagellation, the miraculous icons of Panaghia Pammakaristos, Panaghia Phaneromeni and Archangel Michael.
Source: Ecumenical Patriarchate