Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians, will make his scheduled meeting with President Biden at The White House on Monday, a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said.
As of early Monday afternoon, the White House had not officially confirmed the meeting. The Greek Orthodox spokesman, Tom Costa, told The Washington Times via email the patriarch also will meet with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at Georgetown University on Monday afternoon.
The 81-year-old “first among equals” of the world’s Orthodox Christian leaders spent Sunday night at George Washington University Hospital under observation, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said in a statement. He was released Monday morning, they added.
The patriarch participated via Zoom in ceremonies at the District’s Museum of the Bible where he offered remarks at the opening of an expanded “History of the Bible” exhibit with now features artifacts on loan from the Ecumenical Patriarchate showing the Orthdox Church’s role in preserving the canon of Scripture.
“All of the seven churches of the Apocalypse are in our sphere,” Bartholomew said. “Our continuous memory allows us to share the Scripture as it was used in worship, liturgy, and in its original language.”
Bartholomew arrived Saturday at Joint Base Andrews, where the ambassadors of Cyprus, Australia, Greece and Ukraine, as well as American Orthodox officials, greeted him. He spoke in front of the St. Regis Hotel in the District, offering a blessing on the United States at the start of what is supposed to be a 12-day visit.
“With a heart filled with gratitude and great enthusiasm, we speak words of blessing and benediction for all of you, and for the great American Nation,” he said, according to a news release from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He was also the guest at a dinner held by the Greek ambassador on Saturday evening.
On Sunday, the situation changed, as church officials stated: “Prior to today’s service at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew felt unwell — due to the long flight and schedule of events upon arrival. His doctor, out of an abundance of precaution, advised that he be taken to the George Washington University Hospital for observation.”
Bartholomew was scheduled Monday to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and then Mr. Biden in the afternoon. Both events appear to have been scrapped, despite no official word from either the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the White House or the State Department.
Mr. Biden and the patriarch are expected to privately discuss the situation in Ukraine, where bishops in occupied Crimea have been replaced by clerics more friendly to Russian president Vladimir Putin, several observers said in the runup to the visit.
Elder-Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon was a stand-in for Bartholomew at a Greek Orthodox Church dinner Sunday evening, the archdiocese noted.
Bartholomew’s visit to the U.S. is slated to include stops in West Virginia and New York City, where he would hold what The Associated Press described as “a ceremonial door-opening” at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York City, which replaced a parish church near the World Trade Center that was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.
Bartholomew also is slated to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, during a visit to the Roman Catholic school.
This is his first trip to the United States since 2009, and comes after the patriarch marked the 30th anniversary of his election to the role.
Religion News Service, which first reported Bartholomew‘s hospital stay, said the patriarch had been vaccinated against COVID-19 in January and supports vaccination for others.