By Fr. Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
Your All Holiness, in the name of Christ our Savior, I welcome you to the University Church, this historic house of prayer that has stood at the center of the University's campus and mission since it was built by our founder, Archbishop John Hughes, in 1844. Your All Holiness, your Eminences, your Graces and your Excellencies, Mr. Tognino, members of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, the administration and student body of the University, and faithful and devoted members of the Orthodox Christian communities of America, on behalf of the entire Fordham family, it is a great honor--indeed, a great grace to welcome you to the University Church this afternoon. It is a particular grace to welcome you, Your All Holiness, both to Rose Hill and to the Fordham family. Your presence, and the presence of so many of our beloved brothers in the Orthodox episcopate (both here in America and throughout the world) is a source of great joy to the whole Fordham community. (I am especially happy to welcome my dear friend, Archbishop Demetrios, back to Fordham this afternoon.) At the same time, I am deeply grateful for the presence of Their Eminences Cardinals Egan (whom His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has appointed as his delegate to our ceremony this afternoon), Cardinal Keeler (the Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore) and Cardinal McCarrick (the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington), as well as their Excellencies Archbishops Dolan (the Archbishop of New York) and Migliore (the Papal Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the United Nations) at our gathering this evening. Their presence indicates the great affection and deep reverence that the Roman Catholic Church (both in the United States and throughout the world) has for Your All Holiness.
For my part, I must tell you, Your All Holiness, that your graced presence on our campus this evening reminds me of the long and affectionate ties that have bound the University and the Orthodox churches together for so long. For years Fordham was blessed by the presence of Father John Meyendorff on our faculty, and for generations, the sons and daughters of Orthodox families have come to Fordham to pursue their college degrees. In the process, they have enriched the life of the University beyond measure--with the seriousness with which they have approached their studies, with the devotion that they have always had for the University and its mission, and with their prayer. As you know, thanks in large part to the support that we have received both from you and from Archbishop Demetrios, in the last few years, the University's relationship to and service of the Orthodox community in America has grown even stronger. Indeed, as a result of Archbishop's assistance, Fordham has been able to establish a program in Orthodox Studies that is unique in the United States and that can serve as a model for other colleges throughout the country, a program that provides Orthodox students with both the pastoral care of an Orthodox chaplain and the opportunity to complete a minor in Orthodox theology. On this night so filled with hope and so rich in meaning, I would like to tell you how grateful we at Fordham are for the grace-filled love that you have shown our efforts, and for the generosity of spirit that the Orthodox Church has always shown Fordham.
Of course, Fordham does not merely honor you this evening for the support that you have given to our efforts to nurture the faith on our campus. Far from it. We honor you for the extraordinary service that you have given to the Orthodox Churches, the whole Christian family and the world. And your service has been extraordinary indeed. Your All-Holiness, throughout your ministry as the Archbishop of Constantinople/New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, as the successor to the Apostle Andrew, you have discharged the duties of your office with vision and holiness. In the model of your saintly predecessor, Saint John Chrysotom, you have been a theologian of rare wisdom and wide erudition. (Axios!) In the model of Patriarch Athenagoras I, you have devoted yourself to the work of ecumenical dialogue with loving compassion. (Axios!) And, in the model of the Lord whom you have sought to serve with every fibre of your being, you have embraced the world. Indeed, you have made the whole world your parish and enriched the world with your devotion to peace and the cause of environmentalism. (Axios!) You have, therefore, been a three-fold blessing to the world. Therefore, you are thrice-worthy of the honor that you receive this afternoon, and we at Fordham make our own the greeting with which the Orthodox faithful welcome you throughout the world: Axios. Axios. Axios. May the Great Shepherd of the Flock Christ Jesus our Lord, sustain you in your ministry and continue to make you a blessing to all who meet you and benefit from your wisdom and love. Axios. Axios. Axios.