Dimitrios I, spiritual leader of the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians, will begin a tour of the United States next week, the first time the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople has ever visited North America.
The 75-year-old patriarch will arrive in Washington from Istanbul on Monday, meet with President Bush on July 12, and visit eight cities on his month-long tour, according to officials of the New York office of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.
Dimitrios I will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base at 1 p.m. Monday and will be greeted by Archbishop Iakovos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America.
The ecumenical patriarch's Washington visit coincides with the 30th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, which he will open July 9.
During his visit in Washington, Dimitrios I, who is the spirtual leader of more than 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, is expected to announce a summit of Orthodox leaders to be held in September in Geneva that will "provide guidance and suggestions for the role religion should play in the emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe and in the Soviet Union," according to Archbishop Iakovos.
On Wednesday, Dimitrios I will participate in an Independence Day hymn at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 36th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW.
On July 9, he will conduct a "Liturgy of Peace" at the Lincoln Memorial that will include religious leaders of all faiths.
Congress will hold a tribute to him on July 10.
He will meet with Bush at the White House on July 12, followed by a church congress banquet, which Bush is expected to attend.
During his 25-day U.S. tour, the ecumenical patriarch will also visit New York City, Allentown and Johnstown, Pa., San Francisco, Chicago, Buffalo and Boston.
Dimitrios I, the 269th ecumenical patriarch, is regarded historically as the "first among equals" among the patriarchs of Russian, Romanian, Albanian, Antiochian, Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox believers.
Enthroned as patriarch on July 18, 1972, he limited his travel outside of Turkey in his first dozen years to visiting in the Middle East.