PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) -- Compuware Ice Arena became the Detroit area's largest Eastern Orthodox sanctuary as eight U.S. bishops joined 4,000 worshippers for a three-hour liturgy led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The 120,000 Orthodox in Michigan are among 200 million worldwide for whom the Istanbul-based Bartholomew is spiritual leader.
Many of the Sunday worshippers had never seen the patriarch before and called the liturgy a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Detroit Free Press reported believers drove from as far as Kentucky and Tennessee to participate.
''It's a spiritual opportunity that we may never see again,'' said Alexandra Serdiuk, who came with her husband and daughter. ''He is the equivalent to the pope.''
''These people are simply elated and overjoyed,'' said Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Robed Byzantine-style chanters and a large choir sang out as the heavy smell of incense hung in the air. The patriarch gave a sermon, in Greek.
Bartholomew, often referred to as the ''Green Patriarch'' because of his commitment to the environment, also helped plant trees near Detroit's Children's Hospital.
His U.S. itinerary included visits to New York City and Salt Lake City.
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Ecumenical Patriarchate: www.patriarchate.org
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