Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was hospitalized on Sunday in Washington DC just after he landed in the United States for an official visit. His All-Holiness was scheduled to hold a service at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, but felt ill and was advised by his doctor to cancel the event and rest.
The Greek Archdiocese of America released a statement, saying that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s travels had contributed to his sickness:
“Immediately prior to departing for service at the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew felt unwell due to the long flights and full schedule of events upon arrival. His doctor advised him to rest and out of an abundance of caution he will be taken to the George Washington University Hospital for observation.”
His All-Holiness was scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden, amongst other notable figures like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou, and Turkish Ambassador to the United States Hasan Murat Mercan.
The Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit began this Saturday, October 23. The visit will conclude on November 3. Archbishop Elpidophoros of America welcomed Bartholomew, whose visit, originally scheduled for May 2020, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is the third official visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the US.
Long friendship between Bartholomew and Biden
President Biden and Patriarch Bartholomew share a long history of goodwill and friendship, dating back to Biden’s eight-year tenure as Vice President during the Obama administration.
A turning point in their friendship was Biden’s visit to Istanbul as Vice President in 2011. While there, Biden immersed himself in the world of Orthodoxy, touring the most important sites with then-Archbishop of America Demetrios.
Reflecting on his visit to the city, Biden called lighting a candle at St. George Cathedral, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, “one of the biggest honors of his life.”
Since then, Biden has returned to the city, each time stopping at St. George to light a candle with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Ecumenical Patriarch Congratulated Biden for his election
In a letter dated January 2021 to then President-elect, hand-written in Greek with an English translation attached, Bartholomew makes their friendship clear.
“Since you are well aware of my sentiments for you throughout the years of our friendship, you can only imagine my great delight and pride for your successful election as 46th President of your prominent nation, the United States of America,” the Patriarch wrote.
Mentioning Greek Orthodoxy’s vibrant presence in the US and abroad, including the Archbishop of America Elpidophoros, the Patriarch expressed the feelings of happiness and hope felt around the world at Biden’s win.
“There are millions of Americans, as well as citizens of the entire free world, to whom you now offer hope (I could say conviction) for a better future, where the eternal values and ideals of a civilized humanity may prevail.”