In honor of the Greek national holiday of March 25, Archbishop Michael, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, was invited to the White House on March 23, 1954.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower greeted the Greek Orthodox hierarch who came bearing a gift– an ornate cross which contained a tiny particle believed to be from the Cross of the Crucifixion. The gift came from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The gift, according to President Eisenhower’s daily schedule for March 23, 1954, was “approved by the State Department.”
Eisenhower maintained a close relationship with Archbishop Michael and even asked him to come to Washington for his second term inauguration, where he was asked to offer the invocation on January 20, 1957, giving him the distinction of becoming the first Orthodox hierarch to take part in the Inaugural Ceremonies of a United States President.
Archbishop Michael was considered one of the most important hierarchs to ever lead the American church. According to the website Orthodox History, his greatest contribution was founding the youth movement G.O.Y.A., an acronym for “Greek Orthodox Youth Association.”
“It was this concern for the young people that gained him the recognition as a beloved friend of the youth. The G.O.Y.A. movement which began in 1950, had, by the time of his death on July 13, 1958, reached a membership of 30,000,” according to Orthodox History.
He also aspired for official acceptance of Orthodoxy by the American people and succeeded in having resolutions passed in twenty-six states of the United States recognizing Eastern Orthodoxy as a major faith in the country.
Featured image: (ORIGINAL CAPTION)
President Receives Relic of the Crucifixion
Washington, D.C. – President Eisenhower looks reverently at the gold cross presented to him today by Archbishop Michael, of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, at The White House. The cross, presented to the president on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, contains a minute particle of the cross on which Christ was crucified nearly 2,000 years ago. (Photo by Arnold Sachs)