Even a cold, autumn rain could not prevent hundreds of faithful from joining His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS in welcoming the Ecumenical Patriarch to Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on Saturday, October 25, 1997. His All Holiness, BARTHOLOMEW I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, included a stop at St Vladimir’s Seminary in his month-long sojourn across North America. The Patriarch was there to receive the degree, Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, from the Seminary.
In his welcome address, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS told the large assembly that Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW “honors us by his presence, and gives his patriarchal blessing and recognition to the vision and ministry of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.” Joining the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America on the dais, who also serves as President of the Seminary, was the entire Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, as well as Archbishop SPYRIDON, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Metropolitan JOACHIM of Chalcedon, and other hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Greek Archdiocese.
In the Deans address, Fr Thomas Hopko lauded Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW’s support for theological education. “We know, by his words and witness of life, that Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW steadfastly supports the work of theological education, especially graduate theological study, which insures sound education on all levels of Church life and contributes to all aspects of the Church’s saving mission.” The dean spoke about many dichotomies and divisions appearing in our time which are “alien to Gods gospel in Christ Jesus.” He further described the Patriarch as exercising the three dimensions of Episcopal office with his brother bishops, as pastor, priests and prophet, in imitation of the Church’s One Good Shepherd, High Priest and Prophet, Jesus Christ.
As Secretary of the Faculty, the degree citation was read by Dr Paul Meyendorff. The honorary degree was then conferred upon His All Holiness, Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW by the President of the Seminary, His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS. His Beatitude than presented the doctoral cross to His All Holiness.
In his acceptance speech, Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW expressed thanks and personal gratification to be present among the distinguished body of esteemed professors and students of the seminary. His All Holiness thanked Fr Hopko for his wise words, which the Patriarch said “reflect the theological maturity of this blessed country, where we perceive a living presence of great theological stature.” He exalted former deans and professors who followed the spirit of the Three Hierarchs for promoting our patristic Orthodox theological tradition, naming aloud Fathers George Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann, John Meyendorff, and Professors Nicholas Lossky and George Fedotov.
As he continued his acceptance speech, the Patriarch highlighted the importance of ascetic discipline, ceaseless prayer, and the endless task of ascending the ladder of perfection and sanctification.
Following the degree presentation and acceptance speech, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS responded to the address of His All Holiness. The Metropolitan spoke of the “jurisdictional isolation” we Orthodox find ourselves in throughout North America. “While we profess our conviction that the Orthodox Church is catholic and apostolic, we live in a way which gives priority to cultural and ethnic loyalties,” said the OCA Primate. Continuing, “what we profess and confirm as out Faith is contradicted by how we live and act as a Church.” The Metropolitan ended his exhortation by appealing to Patriarch Bartholomew, throughout his historic visit in America, “for a healing and visionary message which could equip us to bear witness to the Orthodox Faith with integrity, bringing a credible and consistent message to America.” (Photos are available on this website).
His Beatitude presented His All Holiness, Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW with the Order of Saint Innocent, Gold Class, the highest order of the Orthodox Church in America.
Metropolitan THEODOSIUS also presented Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW with an icon and sacred relics of Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and Apostle to America. His All-Holiness expressed his personal gratitude for the holy icon, sacred relics, and for the Order of Saint Innocent.
In responding to the closing remarks of the Metropolitan, Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW concluded, “Your Eminence, Vladiko THEODOSIUS, I thank you for your very kind words through which your expectations you have put a heavy responsibility on my weak shoulders, but I shall try to do my best.” The audience responded with an enthusiastic and affectionate applause.
Following the formal academic convocation many faithful stood in line to receive the Patriarchs blessing as he departed the Seminary grounds.