The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, will deliver the principal address and receive an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame’s 175th commencement ceremony on May 17.
“Patriarch Bartholomew has been a champion for understanding and encounter among the world’s religions, as well as for environmental initiatives, religious freedom and human rights,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said. “We are honored that on his visit to the United States in May, the patriarch will take time to offer his reflections to our graduates and their families.”
Bartholomew will visit the US for the first time in more than a decade. The patriarch will participate in various liturgical events in Boston, New York, West Virginia and elsewhere. He will also visit Washington DC to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration.
The patriarch will also be the honored guest at the annual Congressional Banquet of the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA).
Patriarch Bartholomew was elected the 270th archbishop of Constantinople and ecumenical patriarch in October 1991. His tenure has been highlighted by ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue — including visits with Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders — as well as efforts to promote religious freedom, human rights and protection of the environment.
Known as the “Green Patriarch,” Bartholomew has said that “For human beings to destroy God’s creation, degrade the integrity of the earth and contaminate the planet’s waters, land and air — all of these are sins.”
The recipient of 35 honorary degrees, Bartholomew was honored in 1997 with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the US Congress.
Born Demetrios Arhondonis in 1940 on the island of Imvros (today, Gökçeada, Turkey), Bartholomew completed his undergraduate studies at the Theological School of Halki. He later completed graduate studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute of the Gregorian University in Rome, the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland and the University of Munich.
In addition to having “first amongst equal” status among the world’s Orthodox patriarchates and independent national churches, Bartholomew has direct oversight of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and other “diaspora” churches in Australia, Europe and the Americas.
His visit to the United States has been seen by Church observers as a message of affirmation and support of the recent election of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, whom Bartholomew hand-picked to lead the largest and wealthiest region under his jurisdiction.
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