Students Reflect on the Patriarchal Visit

Ecumenical Patriarch

On Monday, Oct. 25, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and senior hierarch to more than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, paid a visit to Georgetown as part of his 12-day U.S. tour. The Ecumenical Patriarch attended an interfaith ceremony with Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, DC, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, Thomas A. Reynolds III, chair of Georgetown’s Board of Directors, and Georgetown University students. Below are reflections from students who attended the ceremony. 

“For Georgetown University, the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch was a momentous occasion and a tremendous honor. Fêting any international dignitary is a big deal, especially a worldwide religious leader. Thus there was a flurry of priests and press descending upon our campus. But this visit was immensely special for us students in a different way. Cameras flashed and pens scribbled away, but the central theatre of it all was Copley Crypt Chapel, under those heavy arches that have been soaked with our prayers, our chanting, our incense, our lives. Week by week we make the stones of that temple come to life, and now the visit of His All-Holiness has crowned the work we do at the heart of our campus and community.

Being at a Catholic institution, much ado was made over the ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. As you may know, I myself fall outside those categories, and yet, I felt that I, the Episcopalian Secretary of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) who sings at Catholic Masses, was at home in Copley Crypt that night. It was not so much a crowning testament to theological dialogue as to Christian unity–this unity coming not from grand statements from leaders and theologians but from organic, on-the-ground prayer and fellowship.” — Elliott Clark (COL ’22), OCF Secretary

Cardinal Gregory & the Ecumenical Patriarch“The visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch on campus was a significant event for our Orthodox community, as well as for the broader community on campus. Patriarch Bartholomew’s words at Copley Crypt regarding ecumenism and dialogue really resonated with me, considering the fact that our Orthodox Christian Fellowship community has and continues to collaborate with various religious groups on campus. The show of unity with the other religious leaders and important figures of the university demonstrated to all of us how important our Orthodox community is to this campus. We were fortunate to have received a blessing from the Patriarch, in addition to the cross and prayer rope that he gifted to us. As the home of all of our religious services, Copley Crypt has become even more significant for Orthodox Life on campus.” — Orest Mahlay (COL ’22), OCF President

President DeGioia and Ecumenical Patriarch

“The initial weeks of being on campus bring with it a certain sense of rejuvenation—whether it be the camaraderie or renewed sense of academic challenge, the vigor and persistence we all possess soon dwindles. Instead, our free time gets replaced with club meetings and our patience becomes spread thin as we maintain the semblance of work-life balance. For me, my spiritual life becomes one of the first things that is lost in this battle which the Greeks have defined as the louki: a cycle of perpetual busyness which consumes us.

The repetition of vespers and discussion provide with it a certain sense of spiritual refreshment—the resurgence of belief and a temporary filling up of our soul. With the visit of His All Holiness two weeks ago to campus, I hope we all felt that renewed sense of fullness, but for me, this experience was different than the aforementioned. To have with us the leader of our Church and to hear his words on ecumenicalism ought to be a renewed, daily challenge to fight for the continuation of Orthodoxy—a big charge for lowly college students at a Catholic institution.

Still, I hope that in the midst of those stressful and chaotic workloads we can look back on the moments in the Crypt and make a promise to be stewards of Orthodoxy in all we do, all we say, and all we think. It’s certainly a challenge I fall quite short on, but nevertheless something worth thinking about as we conduct ourselves on the Hilltop and beyond.”         — Joey Mavrogiannis (SFS ’23), OCF Treasurer

Read more about the Patriarch’s visit on the Georgetown University news.

Photos by Phil Humnicky, University Photographer.