The Philoptochos pilgrims arrived Sunday in Constantinople amid a backdrop of thousands of demonstrators in Taksim Square, where we were originally scheduled to stay, concerned but not deterred.
The richness of our Orthodoxy and the strength of our faith guides our every step. The National Philoptochos Society pilgrims, led by His Grace Bishop Sevastianos are enjoying a packed schedule including visits to Halki Theological School (by boat), The Zographeion School (where we had lunch with the students), Agia Sophia and the Phanar.
The audience with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the majestic Throne Room at the Ecumenical Patriarchate was a special blessing. His All Holiness generously and graciously offered his wisdom, individually blessed each pilgrim, and warmly presented us with a superb, hand painted icon of Saint Bartholomew to be displayed at the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy.
On the Feast Day of Saint Bartholomew the pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy, ceremoniously rich and beautifully simple, at the Cathedral of Saint George. A small group of young boys and girls in school uniform recited the Pater Imon while Byzantine chanters melodiously filled the Cathedral. Grateful to be present, we pilgrims joyfully exclaimed "Chronia Polla" to our Worldwide Spiritual Father.
Agape dominates this pilgrimage and is the bonding agent of the pilgrims who are having fun, sleeping little, and already planning the next one.