The 2019 group of pilgrims from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA under the spiritual leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Daniel safely departed Tel-Alvin, Israel following a 10-day pilgrimage to the sacred sites of Holy Land and on Thursday, November 14, 2019 arrived in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey).
The itinerary of this year’s pilgrimage placed the faithful of the Church at the ancient homeland of the Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Church. The following three days of the pilgrimage were dedicated to the historical and spiritual importance of the old city of Constantinople, the center of Byzantine world. Vladyka Daniel, assisted by the tour guides of Select Travel International, scheduled to visit numerous historical sites of the city, among which the TopKapi palace, the residence and administrative center of the fallen Ottoman Empire. The highlight of the visit to the palace/museum will be the ability to approach the relics of Holy Prophet John the Baptizer that until this day are housed at the museum.
The itinerary of the following two days of the pilgrimage included visits to the church of Holy Peace (Hagia Eirene), which was dedicated by the Emperor Constantine the Great to the peace of God, and is one of the three shrines which the Emperor devoted to God's attributes, together with Hagia Sophia (Wisdom) and Hagia Dynamis (Force); The Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a Byzantine church, and most importantly to the Great Church of Holy Wisdom – Hagia Sophia.
Prior to the visit to the Spiritual Headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the pilgrims of the church paid a short visit to St. Stephen, the First Martyr and Archdeacon Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Constantinople, thus paying special tribute to the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, the enlighteners of the land of Kyivan Rus.
With the blessing of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is presently on the Patriarchal trip to Belgium for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of establishment of the Holy Metropolis of Belgium, the pilgrims of the Church held a special audience with His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi, the Patriarchal Vicar.
After greeting pilgrims personally, His Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos presented them with a small golden cross to mark the occasion. Addressing the pilgrims on the behalf of the Primate of the Church of Constantinople, Metropolitan Apostolos stated, “You have been blessed this journey an extraordinary visit to the sacred sites of the Holy Land and the ability to concelebrate and participate in the Liturgy in the Church of the Holy Sepulchral. It means your journey was a success. His All-Holiness always looks forward to receiving Ukrainian Orthodox pilgrims both from the United States of America and Ukraine, but unfortunately, he is away these days. Some of the greatest Fathers of the Church lived and worked in your ancestral homeland… We extend our sincerest greetings and assurance of prayers to your spiritual father – His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, under whose pastoral care you seek the kingdom of God. Marching faithfully with your spiritual fathers – Metropolitan Antony and Vladyka Daniel you will always feel the grace of God and his caring love for you and the God-loving people of Ukraine and the United States of America.”
In response to the words of welcome, Archbishop Daniel expressed most sincere greetings of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and the entire group of pilgrims to His All-Holiness, while briefly reflecting on the importance of parental love of the Chief Shepherd of the flock of the Holy Mother Church of Constantinople for the Orthodox faithful both in Ukraine and in Diaspora, as it became evident in the most recent pastoral actions of the Church of Constantinople, caring for the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful.
In conclusion of the meeting, Vladyka Daniel, assisted by Very Rev. Fr. Taras Naumenko, member of the Consistory of the UOC of the USA, Very Rev. Fr. Todor Mazur and Fr. Orest Poukhalskii presented the Patriarchal Vicar with the beautiful rendition of Ukrainian pysanka – decorated Ostrich egg – a symbol of Christ’s Resurrection.
Bidding farewell to the Patriarchate, Vladyka Daniel and the pilgrims of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA received a blessing from the Patriarchal Vicar for a safe trip to the United States of America, thus concluding the 2019 Pilgrimage to Holy Land and Constantinople.
To read more about the Patriarchate of Constantinople, visit the official web site of the Patriarchate.
Photos by Elizabeth Symonenko and Deacon Adrian Mazur