Baltimore's Orthodox Christian community yesterday welcomed its spiritual leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, with a cappella song, festive dance and an outpouring of affection reflecting the ethnic mosaic of its 19 Maryland churches.
From the haunting beauty of a chanted Patriarchal Doxology at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation to the historic ecumenical prayer service at the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Assumption, Bartholomew brought a message of Christian unity and spiritual renewal through ancient Orthodox tradition during his 11-hour visit.
"We have come to this city -- known for its many diverse neighborhoods, replete with Orthodox Christian communities from all over the oikoumene [world] -- to speak boldly the word of faith and to engage the task of perfecting Orthodox unity in all facets of our own Orthodox jurisdictions and to work for Christian unity worldwide," Bartholomew said during the doxology.
Bartholomew, the archbishop of Constantinople, now modern Istanbul, has direct authority over the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, as well Orthodox communities in South America, Western Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. He is considered the "first among equals" among the patriarchs of the other self-governing Orthodox churches and is the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians.
Representatives of the Greek, Russian, Carpatho-Russian, Antiochian, Ukrainian Orthodox churches and the Orthodox Church in America, as well as Maryland's political and community leaders, filled each venue to listen to Bartholomew's message, delivered in fluent English, except for the address at the Baltimore Convention Center luncheon, when he spoke Greek.
Bartholomew started his day in Washington, where he met with Vice President Al Gore to discuss the environment, one of the ecumenical patriarch's favorite issues.
After arriving in Baltimore, he entered the Cathedral of the Annunciation to the sound of bells. The congregation broke into applause, straining for a glimpse of the bearded patriarch, as he walked up the aisle blessing the people with a cross he held, occasionally stopping to touch a child gently on the head.
As Athena Monios Stem held her 9-month-old son Anthony in her arms, Bartholomew paused in his procession and held the blessing cross to the lips of the child. He then bent down and kissed Anthony on the top of the head, as his mother wept.
"I was overwhelmed," Stem said after the service. "[Anthony] was a preemie, he was 3 pounds 4 ounces when he was born. being christened on Saturday, so this is an extra blessing."
During the doxology, a service of celebration and praise that is chanted by the patriarch, a deacon and the choir, the scent of incense filled the sanctuary.
Bartholomew presided from the gold-domed bishop's throne. Draped across the shoulders of his black exorason, the monk's robe worn by Orthodox clergy, was a red and gold manteia, a ceremonial cape.
After the doxology, Bartholomew was welcomed by the Rev. Constantine Monios, dean of the Greek Orthodox cathedral, who noted the immigrant roots of Maryland's Orthodox, "who, with empty purses, lack of language skills, overwhelmed by this new land and bringing with them the only gift their parents were able to give -- a paternal and maternal blessing -- those immigrants gave us the church, they gave us the gift of Orthodox faith, they gave to us the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Bartholomew, making reference to the 75th anniversary this year of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, pointed to a growing interest in Orthodox Christianity in this country.
"We Orthodox do not accept and have never accepted an attempt to proselytize anyone," he said. "We simply hold high the flaming torch of our faith and try to live in this place, blessed by religious tolerance and freedom of expression.
"The treasures of the Orthodox faith speak for themselves," he said. "These treasures are the inexhaustible wealth of truth that springs from the unbroken tradition of the church. But we do not cling jealously to these treasures for their own sake. We have them that we might share them freely with everyone who is seeking the truth."
Bartholomew stopped by City Hall, where Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had the red carpet literally rolled out for him. After a brief meeting in the mayor's office, Bartholomew attended a reception in honor of the Baltimore-based International Orthodox Christian Charities. He noted the danger that its workers sometimes face. "Indeed, you are peacemakers, waging a campaign for peace in war-torn countries around the globe and suffering alongside those whose lands have been ravaged."
He noted that two IOCC workers, Dimitri Petrov and Kimitri Piankowsky, were kidnapped in Chechnya and have been missing for a month. "May God bring them home soon and in safety to their families," he said.
Schmoke apparently couldn't resist offering Bartholomew a parting gift: a Baltimore bicentennial necktie. The Ecumenical Patriarch did not say when he would have the occasion to wear it.
Bartholomew visited Baltimore because Cardinal William H. Keeler, leader of its Roman Catholic archdiocese, invited him after meeting him two years ago in Rome, when the ecumenical patriarch and Pope John Paul II appeared together at St. Peter's Basilica and called for unity between their two churches.
Eastern Orthodoxy co-existed for a millennium with the Western Roman church, until a schism in 1054 caused by political and theological differences resulted in mutual excommunication.
Overtures of reconciliation began with the Second Vatican Council, which concluded in 1965, when the two churches mutually lifted the excommunications.
In his remarks last night at the Basilica of the Assumption -- which marked the first time an ecumenical patriarch preached in a Roman Catholic church in the Americas -- Bartholomew extolled the value of Orthodox spirituality and decried the fact that "shadows of secular materialism shroud the landscape of faith."
The word "spirituality," he said, "has become confused with the proliferation of secular therapies in the jargon of popular psychology.
"While recognizing the value and insights of secular psychology and the contemporary culture of therapy, we affirm that these disciplines are nonetheless incomplete, reductive, and in some cases, antithetical to the healing traditions of the Church," he said.
Orthodox spirituality is inextricably linked to the rich Orthodox liturgy, he said.
"It must also be stressed that Orthodox spirituality is by nature ascetic and monastic," he said. "Dying to the world, the monastic person lives for Christ and for others."
But such spirituality is not limited to monks, he said.
"Genuine spirituality, an honest spiritual life, a life in the Holy Spirit, ought to be lived by everyone -- clergy, lay people, monastics. As we progress in it, we shall find ourselves raised higher and higher."
As the service concluded, Bartholomew and Keeler exchanged an embrace and a kiss of peace. Bartholomew presented Keeler with a cross on a chain, which the patriarch put around the cardinal's neck. In the process, Bartholomew knocked astray Keeler's zucchetto, his red skullcap. Bartholomew quickly adjusted it, as both men smiled.
Then the ecumenical patriarch, who was on a raised platform befitting his status as the senior ranking hierarch, pulled Keeler and Cardinal James Hickey of Washington to his side as the congregation applauded.
Pub Date: 10/24/97