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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: Leading Orthodoxy for Three Decades

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Pope Francis in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 2014. Credit:

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has completed 30 years as the spiritual leader of 300 million faithful of the Greek Orthodox Church worldwide as of November, 2021.

It was October 22, 1991 when Patriarch Bartholomew was elected and ascended to the Ecumenical Throne on November 2, 1991.

In these 30 years, His All Holiness has not only worked for reconciling Christian Churches but also earned an international reputation for raising ecological awareness on a global level.

As the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew represents the voice and concerns of a long-suffering, but fast growing faith, as Orthodox Churches are gaining adherents across the globe.

The Ecumenical Patriarch marked the 30th anniversary of his enthronement with visits to the U.S. and Greece.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meets with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens this week. Credit: Greek PM Press Office

In Greece, the Patriarch met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, along with the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Last month he met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House to discuss climate change and the steps needed to battle it.

President Biden and Patriarch Bartholomew share a history of good will and friendship, dating back to Biden’s eight-year tenure as Vice President during the Obama administration.

A turning point in their friendship was Biden’s visit to Istanbul as Vice President in 2011. While there, Biden immersed himself in the world of Orthodoxy, touring the most important sites with then-Archbishop of America Demetrios.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew also went to New York and dedicated the cross which was placed atop the rebuilt Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and Shrine in Manhattan.

His All Holiness presided over the opening of Saint Nicholas by conducting the traditional Thyranoixia and officially opened its doors after nearly twenty years of planning and construction.

His tireless work and devotion was recognized and awarded soon after, when His All Holiness was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda,in Washington, DC on October 21, 1997.

It was a rare case for any religious figure to be so honored.

With his groundbreaking initiatives and his diverse work, along with his determination, the Primate of Orthodoxy became a figure of international prestige and elevated the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Biography of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Born Dimitrios Arhondonis in the village of Agios Theodoros on the island of Imbros on February 29, 1940, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the  270th and current Archbishop of Constantinople.

After his graduation, he held a position at the Patriarchal Theological Seminary of Halki, where he was ordained a priest. Later, he served as metropolitan of Philadelphia and Chalcedon and he became a member of the Holy Synod.

His All Holiness’ tenure has been characterized by intra-Orthodox cooperation, intra-Christian and inter-religious dialogue, and formal visits to Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim leaders seldom previously visited by an ecumenical patriarch.

Bartholomew has exchanged numerous invitations with church and state dignitaries for His efforts to promote religious freedom and human rights, his initiatives to advance religious tolerance among religions, and environment protection.

He currently serves on the Board of World Religious Leaders for the Elijah Interfaith Institute and in 2018 he decided to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

For his devotion and work in ecology he has also been called “The Green Patriarch”.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Patriarch Bartholomew meets with U.S. President Joe Biden at the Oval Office in October. Credit: Twitter/Archbishop Elpidophoros

“The Green Patriarch” Quotes

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has worked extensively on the issue of environmental protection, campaigning for an eco-friendly Earth.

Here are some of quotes from the “Green Patriarch.”

“If human beings were to treat one another’s personal property the way they treat the natural environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social and illegal. We would expect legal sanctions and even compensation.”

“When we will understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and a sin against God?”

“We have traditionally regarded sin as being merely what people do to other people. Yet, for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, land and air – all of these are sins.”

“We are treating our planet in an inhuman, godless manner precisely because we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above. Our original sin with regard to the natural environment lies in our refusal to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and neighbor on a global scale.”

“The way we respond to the natural environment directly reflects the way we treat human beings. The willingness to exploit the environment is revealed in the willingness to permit avoidable human suffering.”

“It should not be fear of impending disaster with regard to global change that obliges us to change our ways with regard to the natural environment. Rather, it should be a recognition of the cosmic harmony and original beauty that exists in the world.”

“We have been commanded to taste of the world’s fruits, not to waste them; we have been commissioned to care for the world, not to waste it.”

“Climate change is much more than an issue of environmental preservation. Insofar as human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem. To persist in our current path of ecological destruction is not only folly. It is suicidal because it jeopardizes the diversity of our planet.”

“The word ‘ecology’ contains the prefix ‘eco,’ which derives from the Greek word oikos, signifying ‘home’ or ‘dwelling.’ How unfortunate, then, and indeed how selfish it is that we have reduced its meaning and restricted its application. This world is indeed our home. Yet it is also the home of everyone, just as it is the home of every animal creature and of every form of life created by God.”




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