Our “Green” Patriarch

Introduction

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I ,the Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome has been the 270th successor of the throne of Christian Church founded by St. Andrew ,”first among equals” (primus inter pares) in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, since 22 October 1991. He was born in the village of Agioi Theodoroi in the island Imvros. His birth name was Dimitrios Arhondonis.

As Ecumenical Patriarch, he has been particularly active internationally. One of his first focuses has been on rebuilding the once-persecuted Eastern Orthodox Churches. For this reason invited Primates in Fanar, where they all sent a message of unity in the world. These Assemblies where resumed in 1995 in Patmos, in January 2000 in Jerusalem and in December in the same year in Instabul and in Nice of Bithinia.

He has also continued the reconciliation dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church started by his predecessors. As part of this effort, he invited Pope Benedict XVI to Instabul, who accepted the invitation and made an official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinopole (the Lantern) in November 2006 where he attended anniversary Celebration of the Enthroned Patriarchate and signed a Joint Declaration.

Bartholomew I, initiated dialogue with other faiths, including other Christian sects, Muslims, and Jews, to promote religious freedomand human rights, peace in the world and environmental issues.

Environment

Aware that the environmental destruction is  a very important  problem that threatens God’s Creation, he has put the environmental protection high in his Patriarchate’s agenda and has been behind various international environmental causes. This has earned him the nickname of “The Green Patriarch”. He has also named the 1st of September as the Day of Prayer for the Environmental Protection.

Honors

  • In 1997, His All Holiness received the Congressional Gold Medal  the highest civilian award given by the United States.
  • In 2002, His All Holiness received the Sophie Prize for his work on the environment.
  • In April 2008, he was included on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list.
  • In 1999 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania.
  • In 2004 the Great Golden Medal with Ribbon for Services to the Republic of Austria by Federal President Thomas Klestil.
  • He has also been awarded Ηonorary Doctorates by a number of Universities and Educational Institutions around the world.

Education

  • Elementary school in his native Imvros.
  • Zographeion Lyceum in Istanbul.
  • Patriarchal Theological school of Halki. He graduated with highest honours in 1961.
  • August 1961 he was ordained Deacon, receiving the name Bartholomew.
  • 1961-1963 fulfilled his military service in the Turkish army as a non regular officer.
  • 1963-1968 Graduate studies, received  his Ph.D  on the Canon Law. The same year he became a lecturer in the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
  • 1968 return to Istanbul.
  • October 1969 he was ordained a Priest.
  • October 22, 1991 he was elected Ecumenical Patriarch.
  • He speaks Greek, Turkish, Italian, German, French and English; he is also fluent in classical Greek and Latin.

* We met our Ecumenical Patriarch at his office at the Lantern (Fanari). Catalytic presence, calm in the eyes and dynamic voice, the Head of our Church, welcomed us, shared with us his concerns about the difficult economic situation in our country, for young people, with and without job, for His environmental sensitivities. The following interview is an honour and a blessing as well. We thank Him.