New York, NY His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, was among several religious leaders invited to the White House by President George Bush on Thursday, Sept. 20th, to pray with him and to offer counsel in this time of crisis as he prepared to address the Joint Session of Congress and the Nation.
The two-hour session at the White House began with a meeting of 27 religious leaders and White House officials, which resulted in a consensus statement urging both patience and justice in Americas response to terrorism.
Immediately following, seven of the leaders, including Archbishop Demetrios, met with President Bush in the Oval Office where he articulated in strong, candid terms where we are now as a Nation, how we must cope with the tragedy of September 11 and how important it was to have the spiritual support and leadership of the religious community. The overriding religious tone of the discussion ended with a prayer led by Cardinal Bernard Law, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston.
The seven leaders, led by President Bush, then joined the entire clergy group in the Roosevelt Room. President Bush articulated his earlier position, previewing the speech he was to deliver to the Country that evening. He asked each person present to offer a statement, thanked everyone for their support and he was assured that you will be surrounded by prayers. At the close of the meeting, Archbishop Demetrios was asked to offer a prayer on behalf of the President and those present.
The group then proceeded to the White House lawn for a press conference, which began with a statement from each of the leaders present in the Oval Office with President Bush. Archbishop Demetrios expressed the full support of all the leaders and the Greek Orthodox community, said the President welcomed the candid discussion and stated that as Americans we should not seek vengeance but only justice, carried out after careful consideration.
Meeting with CIA Director George Tenet
Following the White House meeting, Archbishop Demetrios went to the offices of the Central Intelligence Agency where he was warmly received by Mr. George Tenet, CIA Director and a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. They had a private discussion which concluded with a prayer.
Memorial Service at Pentagon Site
On Friday morning, September 21, Archbishop Demetrios, accompanied by a small group including United States Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller, newly appointed director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Andrew Natsios and Michael Jaharis, vice chairman of the Archdiocesan Council, visited the Pentagon site. His Eminence offered a Memorial Service for the repose of the souls of those who had lost their lives in the Pentagon attack.
The Archbishop was then escorted close to the actual site of the crash by the Deputy Chief of Police of Arlington County John Haas, who had made all the arrangements for the Pentagon visit at the request of the Assistant Chancellor of the Archdiocese Father Michael Kontogiorgis. As they left, His Eminence stopped and placed a rose at a memorial for the victims and then proceeded to the media site where he held a press conference with media from throughout the world and three live television interviews.
Capitol Hill Reception
At Friday noon, there was a reception held on Capitol Hill where Archbishop Demetrios had an opportunity to explain the relief efforts of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese with several legislators. His Eminence then attended the swearing-in of the new Ambassador of the United States to Greece Thomas Miller.
The evening concluded with a Memorial Service at Saint Sophia Cathedral. In attendance were Metropolitan Theodosius of the Orthodox Church in America, diplomats, clergy and faithful from throughout Greater Washington, DC.
St. Nicholas Church
Early Saturday morning, Sept. 22, His Eminence visited Ground Zero for the third time and was able to reach the site of the demolished St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and to offer prayers. His Eminence will return to the site if and when the still missing relics of the Church become unearthed, at which time they will be retrieved and taken to the Archdiocese for safekeeping.
Prayer for America
Thousands of New Yorkers attended the Prayer for America Service organized at Yankee Stadium by the city of New York on Sunday, Sept. 23rd at 3:00 p.m. that included Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim religious leaders. Also present were Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki, former President Bill Clinton, Senators Clinton and Schumer and many other government, political and religious leaders. Police and fire department officials were also in attendance along with thousands of policemen and firemen and their families, and families and friends of the victims. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios offered the Benediction at the close of the three-hour event.