Ecumenical Patriarch Makes Return Visit to Lower 9th Ward

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sprinkles Holy Water over the Mississippi River. (Photo by GANP/Dimitris Panagos)

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will be visiting the lower 9th ward in New Orleans on Friday as a gesture to "stand in solidarity with the people of New Orleans and all people who seek a better life," sources reported.

"We return to the place where the mighty Mississippi River nears its course into the Gulf of Mexico, and where the waves of the sea and the banks of the river overflowed," the Patriarch said during his arrival in New Orleans on Tuesday. "We return so that we might bear witness to the hope that is in you, the hope you have manifested through the rebuilding your lives and your community."

"We return in order to pray with you and to intercede with the Lord of creation, that the 'flood of many waters shall not come nigh unto you again.'"

Commencing at 3:00 p.m. EST, the Patriarch's tour will follow his presiding of a special memorial service at St. Louis Cemetery #3 for victims of 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina was one of the most devastating storms in United States' history and produced catastrophic damage along the Gulf Coast region including the deaths nearly 1200 and the destruction of an estimated $75 billion worth of property.

The lower 9th ward was one of the worst hit regions of New Orleans, with storm surge inundating even the highest points of the city.

The region was first visited by the Patriarch in the Winter of 2006, approximately a year after the storm hit.

Bartholomew is currently on an official 15-day Apostolic and Patriarchal Visit to the U.S., which began on Wednesday with the opening of an environmental symposium themed on restoring and preserving the Mississippi River.

Entitled "Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River," the Oct. 21-25 event is the eigth of its kind to be convened by the Patriarch, who has been called the "Green Patriarch" for his works in preserving the environment. Previous symposia have included studies on the Arctic in 2007, the Amazon River in 2006, the Baltic Sea in 2003, the Adriatic Sea in 2002, the Danube River in 1999, the Black Sea in 1997 and the Aegean Sea in 1995.

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