For the first time since his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America in July 2002, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman embark on a week-long visit to His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Wednesday, July 2, 2003.
Officials of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the US Consulate are slated to meet Metropolitan Herman at Istanbul’s international airport on Thursday, July 3, after which he will be received by Patriarch Bartholomew at the Patriarchate in the city’s Phanar district. He will also visit the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in the Patriarchate complex.
While in Istanbul, the ancient Constantinople, Metropolitan Herman will also visit Hagia Sophia, the massive sixth century basilica built by the Emperor Justinian and consecrated in 537 AD by Patriarch Menas. Originally known as the “Great Church” because of its vast size in comparison with other churches of the time, it was later named “Hagia Sophia,” the “Holy Wisdom of Christ.” After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque and, subsequently, into a museum.
Metropolitan Herman also will visit numerous other pilgrimage sites in the city, including the ancient Church of Saint Irene and the Church of the Savior in Chora.
On July 4, US Independence Day, Metropolitan Herman will be feted at a private dinner at the Patriarchal residence.
Metropolitan Herman is also scheduled to visit Nicea and Chalcedon, the sites of thriving Christian communities during the first millennium. It was in Nicea that the first and seventh Ecumenical Councils were held in 325 and 787 AD respectively, while Chalcedon was the site of the pivotal fourth Ecumenical Council in 451.
On Sunday, July 6, Metropolitan Herman will attend the Divine Liturgy at a church in Istanbul to be determined by Patriarch Bartholomew, after which they will visit the theological school on the island of Halki, accompanied by officials from the United States Consulate in Istanbul. The school, for many years the Patriarchate’s premier institution of theological study and research, was closed in the 1970s, although hopes remain high that it will be reopened in the near future.
On Monday, July 7, Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Herman will attend Vespers in the Church of Saint Kyriakis and pray before the tombs of the Patriarchs. The following morning, he will visit Ephesus, site of the Third Ecumenical Council in 431 AD at which the Orthodox Faith was defended against the Nestorian heresy and the term “Theotokos” in reference to the Virgin Mary was defended and defined. According to tradition the Virgin Mary made her home in Ephesus after Pentecost.
On the eve of his departure for New York on Thursday, July 10, Metropolitan Herman will host a dinner in honor of Patriarch Bartholomew.
“As Ecumenical Patriarch, Patriarch Bartholomew is the ‘first among equals’ of the world’s Orthodox hierarchs,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “Metropolitan Herman’s visit to Orthodox Christianity’s ancient primatial See will serve to strengthen the relationship between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church in America.”
Full coverage of Metropolitan Herman’s visit will be available on the OCA web site at http://www.oca.org as soon as possible and featured in the July-August issue of “The Orthodox Church” newspaper.