First Lady Hillary Clinton welcomed the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Georgia to the White House on May 21, 1998, as His Holiness ILIA II continues his visit to the United States. The Patriarch spoke of religious life and the status of the Church in his country, and how the Orthodox Patriarchate in Georgia is striving to rebuild following the collapse of communism and the advent of democratic government. Mrs Clinton acknowledged the many hardships inherent in former Soviet-bloc countries, and lauded the work of the International Orthodox Christian Charities and other Baltimore-based humanitarian organizations at work in the Caucasus. Also present for the meeting with the First Lady was Ambassador Morningstar and Fr Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, Georgian Ambassador and Mrs Tedo Japaridze, and Protodeacon Eric Wheeler and Paul Hunchak, OCA Treasurer and Secretary, respectively.
Since arriving in New York last Thursday as the guest of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, Patriarch ILIA’s second official trip to the United States since his election to the top post of his Church is, in his own words, “characteristically different” from his first visit here as Patriarch in 1986. This time he comes with a small delegation of hierarchs and clergy representing a free Republic of Georgia, and His Holiness is quick to express the gratitude of fellow Georgians for all the support Americans have given in the past.
Patriarch Ilia and Metropolitan Theodosius meet with Catholicos Karekin I
On the first full day of his visit, Patriarch ILIA met the Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness, KAREKIN I, who was also visiting the United States, at St Vartan Cathedral in New York. Patriarch KAREKIN thanked His Eminence, Archbishop BARSAMIAN for arranging the meeting, and lauded Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and the Oorthodox Church in America (OCA) for “bringing and perpetuating the spiritual and theological tradition of the Orthodox Faith to North America.” He concluded by speaking of the difficulties shared by the Georgians and Armenians in the post-Soviet era.
At a festive luncheon which followed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS presented each Patriarch with the highest award given by the Orthodox Church in America, the Order of St Innocent, Gold Class. The Order of St Innocent was also bestowed on Mr & Mrs Dwayne Andreas, ardent supporters of St Catherine’s Church in Moscow—the Representation Church for the Orthodox Church in America to the Moscow Patriarchate—and for the countless humanitarian efforts the Andreas’ have supported over the years. In attendance at this luncheon were numerous religious leaders from the tri-state area, including retired Greek Orthodox Archbishop IAKOVOS, Archbishop VICTORIN of the Romanian Church, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia and the OCA Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, Bishop NATHANIEL of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, John Cardinal O’Connor, Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, Archbishop BARSAMIAN of the Armenian Church, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, Dr Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Bishop Richard Grein of the Episcopal Church, and the Rev Bruce Robbins of United Methodist Church.
On May 16 the Georgian Primate presided over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and commencement exercises at St Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, New York.
Patriarch Ilia meets with Officials
In Washington Patriarch ILIA met with Ambassador William Courtney of the National Security Council at the Old Executive Office Building, and with Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot at the U.S. State Department, where they discussed regional political issues in this former Soviet state. Also receiving His Holiness at their Senate offices were Senators Paul Sarbanes and Sam Brownback. Discussions with government officials began with an expression of gratitude from His
Holiness on behalf of all Georgian people to the United States for helping them rebuild a free democratic republic. His Holiness described in detail the endless struggles the Orthodox Church of Georgia has faced in the past and continues to experience even today. Patriarch Ilia at Reception When asked what was the purpose of his visit to America, the Patriarch explained that it was his desire to strengthen the spiritual and fraternal bond between Orthodox faithful in North America with their brothers and sisters in Georgia.
His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP of the Antiochian Archdiocese, and His Eminence, Archbishop SPYRIDON of the Greek Archdiocese, each received the Patriarch in their respective chanceries for a dinner-reception, with numerous Orthodox and Oriental hierarchs and clergy in attendance. Other New York receptions included the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, National Council of Churches, and a private luncheon hosted by the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Patriarch Ilia will conclude his visit to the United States by presiding over the Memorial Day pilgrimage to St Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA, May 23-25, which will include commencement exercises at St Tikhon’s Seminary where the Catholicos will receive an honorary doctorate.