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  • Fr. John-Brian
    Dec 1, 2004
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      By Stavros Papagermanos
      November 30, 2004

      CONSTANTINOPLE - The 2004 Archon Pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate
      coincides with the unprecedented historical event of the restoration of the
      holy relics of St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom to their
      rightful place from which they were forcibly taken 800 years ago by the
      Crusaders of the 4th Crusade in 1204.

      The Archons of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle arrived in
      Constantinople Nov. 28 and were greeted at the airport by the Order's
      National Commander Dr. Anthony Limberakis, Secretary John Halecky and the
      Chairman of this year's Pilgrimage Alex Pritsos.

      The pilgrimage to the monuments and treasures of the Mother Church of
      Constantinople started immediately upon arrival with a visit to the
      historic monastery of Chora, the Church of the Holy Savior of Chora (which
      today is a museum), where the Archons had the opportunity to admire the
      superb mosaics and frescoes that have recently been restored by the
      Byzantine Institute of America.

      The next stop was the Church of Panagia of Blachernae, known as the
      Aghiasma of the Theotokos, which is the place where the Akathist Hymn was
      first chanted during the time of the Emperor Heraclius in 626 AD. The
      pilgrims visited the newer surviving church where the holy water fountain
      is housed. There they gathered in the center of the church and chanted
      three times the Akathist Hymn: Ti Ypermaho.

      Dr. Limberakis had the opportunity to welcome his fellow Archons and
      pilgrims to what he described as a spiritual odyssey. "Thank you for taking
      time to demonstrate our love and respect to our Ecumenical Patriarch, thank
      you for being here so you can see and live the martyria and diakonia our
      Patriarch, the Synod and the Church of Constantinople give on a daily
      basis. You will be inspired and transformed by this experience," he said.

      In the evening, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, who leads
      this year's Archon pilgrimage, welcomed the participants during an
      orientation dinner held at the hotel overlooking the Bosphorus.

      George Demacopoulos, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Fordham
      University who, through his research contributed to the return of the
      relics, offered an enlightening overview of the lives and history of the
      two Great Fathers of the Church, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John

      Archbishop Demetrios of America applauded the instrumental roles of
      Professor Demacopoulos and Fr. Alexander Karloutsos in the work that
      preceded the return of the relics and recognized "the tremendous work of
      the Archons in advocating the important issues of religious freedoms for
      our Ecumenical Patriarchate."

      Monday, November 29, began with a visit to another famous and ancient
      shrine of Constantinople, the Monastery Panagia of Zoodochos Peghe at
      Balukli, located just outside the walls of the city. The pilgrims visited
      the underground "Life-Giving Fountain" located under the icon of the Holy

      The monastery compound includes many patriarchal graves including those of
      Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios, of blessed memory. There, Archbishop
      Demetrios, in the presence of all the pilgrims-, offered a trisagion
      memorial service for Patriarch Athenagoras who had been his predecessor in
      the Archdiocese of America.

      A visit to the Balukli Home for the Aged followed, where the Archons had
      the opportunity to meet many of the Greek Orthodox residents of the home.
      The Order of St. Andrew and some individual pilgrims made monetary
      offerings in support of the Patriarchal institution.

      Early in the afternoon the group visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
      Phanar. They were given a tour of the Patriarchal compound and the
      Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George where His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
      of America presented to the pilgrims the holy relics of St. Gregory the
      Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. "Blessed are we who are able to
      venerate and see these relics, these bones that held the flesh and the body
      and the brain and the personality of these two Great Saints," said the

      Immediately following the Archons were welcomed by His All Holiness
      Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the room of the Throne. His All
      Holiness spoke of the edifying presence of Archbishop Demetrios as a member
      of the Holy and Sacred Synod and he said "these days our love and prayers
      are particularly with Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco because he is

      Speaking about the return of the relics the Patriarch noted the very
      important contributions of Fr. Alexander Karloutsos and Prof. George
      Demacopoulos to whom he offered as a token of appreciation an icon of St.

      "I express once again my genuine joy and satisfaction that you are here and
      through you I express my gratitude to the whole Greek Orthodox Community in
      America," said the Patriarch addressing the Archons. He added: "We thank
      the Archons and Dr. Limberakis personally for organizing this pilgrimage
      and for proceeding to Ankara in order to support our issues and defend our

      The Archons reverently attended Great Vespers at the Patriarchal Cathedral
      on the eve of the feast of their protector and founder of the Church of
      Constantinople St. Andrew, the First-called Apostle.

      In the evening His All Holiness hosted a dinner for the Archons and the
      Vatican Delegation.

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