WASHINGTON (AP), The spiritual leader of 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians around the globe was admitted to Washington Sunday on the first day of a 12-day U.S. trip. He will remain there overnight, according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
According to the archdiocese, Ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew was about to depart for a service at Cathedral of Saint Sophia in the nation’s capital when he became unwell from the long flight and the full schedule of events.
According to the archdiocese the doctor had advised him to "rest and out of an abundance caution" visit George Washington University Hospital to observe. Later Sunday, the hospital reported that the patriarch was feeling good and would be released on Monday.
Bartholomew (81) has a wide agenda that covers religious, political, and environmental issues. His agenda includes a meeting with President Joe Biden on Monday and several interfaith and ceremonial gatherings.
The Eastern Orthodox patriarch is the first among equals, which confers him prominence but not the power to be a Catholic pope.
Bartholomew will be making the latest of his many visits to the country over his 30 year tenure. He is expected to address issues ranging from the pending restructuring American churches to his church's status in Turkey.
Bartholomew will be receiving an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame Thursday. This event highlights efforts to improve Orthodox and Catholic ties centuries after the two churches split in 1054 amid disputes about theology, papal supremacy claims, and other theological issues.
His influence in Turkey is very limited, but it is not in Eastern Orthodox communion. This Eastern Orthodox communion is rooted in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and has a global diaspora. The majority of communion is in independent churches, where the patriarch has symbolic importance, but he oversees Greek Orthodox and other jurisdictions.
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With around 100 million members, the Russian Orthodox Church has in particular asserted their independence and influence. It also rejected Bartholomews 2019 recognition that Orthodox churches in Ukraine are independent. Moscow's patriarch still claims sovereignity.
Bartholomew will be meeting with U.S. officials in addition to the scheduled meetings. He also plans to host a ceremonial opening at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine in New York City. This church was built to replace the destroyed parish church and to remember those who were killed at the World Trade Center.
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, there are approximately 200 million Eastern Orthodox in the world. The US had approximately 1.8 million Orthodox, nearly half of which were Greek Orthodox.
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