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I received an email on Wednesday morning informing me that His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I would be visiting Weirton.

How important was this case?

The Ecumenical Patriarch, also known as the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome, is the spiritual leader of a few hundred million Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world. As was explained to me by several people that day, he is, in essence, the Pope of the Orthodox Christian faith.

And he was coming to little old man Weirton, West Virginia, as part of his official apostolic visit to the United States. Two days earlier he was in the White House for a face-to-face meeting with the President of the United States and then headed to our community.

Also in the entourage was Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, the head of the church here in the United States.

The visit, I was told, had been in preparation for some time, thanks to the efforts of Michael Psaros, a native of Weirton, archon of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Order of St. Andrew, sitting on his national council and living in New York. Part of the tour included a stop at what had been the home of Psaros’ grandparents, Harilaos and Evyenia Loufaki, which is now known as Evyenia’s House of Hope.

For those who don’t know, the Evyenia House of Hope is managed by the Weirton Christian Center. Among its programs, it offers space for counseling services and life skills lessons, as well as a site for supervised visits between children and their parents or guardians, especially when the children are in foster care. . It also has offices for West Virginia Catholic Charities and the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Center. There is also a “clothes cabinet” of all kinds, with formal dresses available for those who cannot purchase new ones for school dances or other events.

The Evyenia House of Hope is an important part of our community.

The tour then moved to the All Saints Greek Orthodox Church for a service and lunch.

Weirton is no stranger to visits from prominent personalities. Current presidents, as well as presidential candidates, have walked the streets of our community during campaign shutdowns. US Senators and Governors participated in important events and announcements.

I even had the opportunity to cover the news of some of them. As I sat in the Hall of All Saints Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by friends and strangers, experiencing their hospitality and doing my best to show mine, I knew it was different. . A short distance away was a man charged with guiding the faith of millions of people. Even for someone like me, who has never been especially religious, I understand what a real privilege this was.

I do not claim to speak for the whole of Weirton, but I hope our community understands the significance of this visit and appreciates the efforts of Michael Psaros and his family, as well as the hospitality of everyone at the church. Greek Orthodox All Saints.

I also personally thank Stratos Safioleas and Amelia Antzoulatos of the communications team with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and Timothy Costa of the Parkside group for their help before, during and after the visit. They made the cover of our newspaper possible.

It was truly an important historical event for the community of Weirton, and one that should always be remembered. I know this is not the one I will forget.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is editor of the Weirton Daily Times and can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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