Who is the Ecumenical Patriarch?

His All Holiness, BARTHOLOMEW, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew and spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. As a citizen of Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew's personal experience provides him with a unique perspective on the continuing dialogue among the Christian, Islamic and Jewish worlds. He works to advance reconciliation among Catholic, Muslim and Orthodox communities, such as in former Yugoslavia, and is supportive of peace building measures to diffuse global conflict in the region.

What is his role?

As Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, Patriarch Bartholomew occupies the First Throne of the Orthodox Christian Church and presides in a fraternal spirit among all Orthodox Primates. The Ecumenical Patriarch has the historical and theological responsibility to initiate and coordinate actions among the Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania, The Czech Land and Slovakia, Finland, Estonia, and numerous archdioceses in the old and new worlds. This includes the convening of councils or meetings, facilitating inter-church and inter-faith dialogues and serving as the primary expresser of Church unity as a whole. As Ecumenical Patriarch he transcends every national and ethnic group on a global level and today is the spiritual leader of approximately 250 million faithful world-wide.

The Ecumenical Patriarch: a spokesman for the martyred Church of the 20th Century

In his person, Patriarch Bartholomew represents the memory of the life and sacrifice of the martyred Orthodox Church of the 20th Century. After ascending the Ecumenical Throne in 1991, he journeyed throughout the Orthodox and non-Orthodox world bringing a message of restoration and renewed hope. He has presided over the restoration of the Autocephalous Church of Albania and the Autonomous Church of Estonia, and has been a constant source of spiritual and moral support to those traditionally Orthodox countries emerging from decades of wide scale religious persecution behind the Iron Curtain. The Patriarch is a living witness to the world of Orthodoxy's painful and redemptive struggle for religious freedom and to the innate dignity of humankind.

The Ecumenical Patriarch: a spokesman for reconciliation in the new millennium

Patriarch Bartholomew strives earnestly to prepare the Orthodox Church for its continuing role as a mediator between East and West. In his capacity as Ecumenical Patriarch, he has three times convened the leaders of the self-governing Orthodox Churches around the globe, challenging them to vigorously pursue solutions to the challenges of the new millennium, for example, by categorically condemning nationalism and fanaticism. Together with His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has supported progress toward the reconciliation of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches.

Patriarch Bartholomew's roles as the primary spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian world and a transnational figure of global significance become more vital each day. He cosponsored the Peace and Tolerance Conference in Istanbul (1994) bringing together Christians, Muslims and Jews. Most noted are his efforts in environmental awareness which have earned him the title "Green Patriarch." The main focus for the Ecumenical Patriarch’s environmental work takes the form of a series of environmental Symposia which have been organised since 1995 through Religion, Science and the Environment, for which His All Holiness is the patron: Symposium I (1995) travelled the Aegean Sea , identified the degeneration of the world's waters as a new Apocalypse and confirmed the possibility of a common language for scientific and theological thought. Symposium II (1997) took place in the Black Sea , chosen as a case study of a threatened marine environment; it succeeded in launching concrete initiatives for education and cooperation around the sea. Symposium III (1999) travelled down the Danube , 'a River of Life ', defiled by reckless development and waste, and blocked by the debris of recent war. Symposium IV (2002) travelled up the Adriatic Sea and addressed the ethical aspects of the environmental crisis. The Symposium culminated in the historic signing by Their Holinesses Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew, of a joint declaration on man's duty to protect the earth. Symposium V (2003) journeyed across the Baltic Sea , which for decades was a frontline between contrasting political systems. That Symposium developed the theme of shared responsibility for tackling threats to the marine environment.

These endeavours , together with his inspiring efforts on behalf of religious freedom and human rights, rank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew among the world's foremost apostles of love, peace and reconciliation for humanity, a reason for which he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress, and has been presented with environmental prizes including the 2002 Award of the Binding Institute of Liechtenstein, The 2002 Sophie Prize for ‘his pioneering efforts linking faith and environment’, and in April 2005 was one of the first seven to be presented with the UNEP Champion of the Earth Award.