Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew marked 30 years as the leader of the Greek Orthodoxy by visiting Greece this week where he met with the spiritual and political leadership of the country.
Bartholomew’s visit comes after a high-profile visit in the United States over the past month, where he met with US President Joe Biden.
On Tuesday he met with the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who congratulated him for his 30-year tenure and said that the Ecumenical Patriarch has met even the most demanding expectations for his high mission with excellence.
She also expressed her wish and conviction that he will continue to spiritually lead the millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world by serving the same principles, with emphasis on the individual rights and the environment, as he has done in all the previous years.
On his part, the Ecumenical Patriarch warmly thanked Sakellaropoulou for hosting at dinner in his honor and said it was God’s blessing that he was celebrating the anniversary in Greece.
“I always meet with love and the Greek people’s respect to the institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek people’s gratitude to Phanar, as we all are aware from history what the Church of Constantinople had offered our nation throughout the centuries,” he said.
Bartholomew: I strive to do my best for the Church and our race
On Monday he was received by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In greeting the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Mitsotakis recounted his visit to the northeast Aegean Island of Imvros and the warm welcome he received at the time by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is a native of the island.
The specific isle was exclusively inhabited by ethnic Greeks for millennia before being awarded to Turkey with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and as a result, only a tiny community of the once-thriving Hellenic and Christian presence remains.
In reply, Bartholomew said he anticipates the occasion to again receive Mitsotakis on Imvros in his current status as Greece’s prime minister.
In a nod to this lineage, Bartholomew noted that “…I strive to do what is best for the Church and our race; always with the assistance of the Greek government, the Church of Greece and all of the world’s Orthodox brothers, who respect and honor our Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
The issue of the continuing refusal of Turkish authorities to allow the reopening of the Halki School of Theology, the Patriarchate’s primary seminary, was discussed extensively during the meeting.
Bartholomew arrived in Athens on Saturday afternoon for a five-day visit to Greece. The Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians is visiting the country in the context of events organized in Athens by the Church of Greece and other bodies on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his ascension to the patriarchal throne.