October 29, 2009
Atlanta, Ga – Over twelve hundred people, including dignitaries and distinguished guests, gathered with His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta to welcome His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Atlanta, Georgia, for a unique and spiritually uplifting “Ecumenical Gathering of Peace” on Thursday, October 29, 2009. His All-Holiness was joined by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Most Reverend John Donoghue, Archbishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, Hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Priests from both the Metropolis of Atlanta and sister Orthodox Churches. The beautiful Cathedral sanctuary was filled to capacity, with people standing along the walls and overflowing into the narthex. Nearly 150 people watched the service on a wide screen television in Carlos Hall.
His All-Holiness offered a Doxology of Peace at the beginning of the Gathering. Mr. Nick Moraitakis, Metropolitan Council Vice President, served as Master of Ceremonies and offered welcoming remarks and introductions. Honoring His All-Holiness’ concern for the environment, Archbishop Donoghue read from St. Basil the Great’s Homily on Genesis, followed by Archbishop Demetrios’ reading from St. John Chrysostom’s Homily on Genesis. His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios welcomed His All-Holiness, Archbishop Demetrios, Archbishop Donoghue, the members of the Holy Eparchial Synod, dignitaries and honored guests, stating that “our hearts are filled with joy, so much so that we cannot express the happiness we feel at Your decision to be with us.” His Eminence further stated that “we have been blessed with a Spiritual Father who does not hesitate to do what is right and what is needed – travel all over the world and speak the truth about environmental issues.”
His All-Holiness’ homily concerned St. Cleopas, whose feast day is celebrated today, and the darkness of spirit that often results from our experience of hatred, injustice and violence. St. Cleopas had been a witness to the humiliation, torture and barbaric death of Jesus, and did not recognize the man who joined him on the road to Emmaus. Yet in worship, in giving thanks, in the breaking of the bread, the Eucharistic encounter, St. Cleopas recognized Christ and the veil of darkness fell from his spirit and his heart.
The Cathedral Choir, led by Mrs. Christina Polizos and the Annunciation Cathedral Chantors, led by Mr, Nicodemus Economos, offered Byzantine hymns. The Holy Spirit Catholic Church Traditional Choir, with Dr. Albert Ahlstrom, Choirmaster, offered Ave Maria and a Litany of the Saints. The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church Voices of Praise Choir led by Elder Kevin Bond offered two hymns in the tradition of African-American gospel music.
As His All-Holiness departed, the Chantors led the congregation in the Polychronion, a hymn asking our Lord to grant His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch “many more years.” After the Ecumenical Gathering of Peace concluded, a festive reception was offered by the Metropolis of Atlanta and the Annunciation Cathedral in honor of His All-Holiness for guests in the Kartos Ballroom of the Thalia M. Carlos Hellenic Center.
We pray that the Lord will grant His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew many years of good health to lead His Church and inspire the Orthodox World.