Bartholomew I of Constantinople

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Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew in 2022
ChurchEcumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Installed2 November 1991
PredecessorDemetrios I
Personal details
Dimitrios Arhondonis (Δημήτριος Αρχοντώνης, Dēmḗtrios Archontṓnēs)

(1940-02-29) 29 February 1940 (age 83)
Agioi Theodoroi (Zeytinliköy), Imbros (Gökçeada), Turkey
DenominationEastern Orthodox
ResidenceFener, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Chrḗstos Archontṓnēs (father)
  • Merópē Archontṓnēs (mother)
Alma materPatriarchal Theological School (Halki seminary)
SignatureBartholomew's signature
Coat of armsBartholomew's coat of arms
Styles of
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople
Reference styleHis All Holiness
Spoken styleYour All Holiness
Religious styleEcumenical Patriarch
Posthumous styleN/A

Bartholomew (Greek: Βαρθολομαῖος, Bartholomaĩos; Turkish: Bartholomeos; born Dimitrios Arhondonis on 29 February 1940) is the 270th Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, since 2 November 1991.[1] In accordance with his title, he is regarded as the primus inter pares (first among equals) in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and as the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide.[a]

Bartholomew was born as Dimitrios Arhondonis (Greek: Δημήτριος Αρχοντώνης, Dimítrios Archontónis), in the village of Agios Theodoros (officially called Zeytinliköy) on the island of Imbros (later renamed Gökçeada by the Turkish government). 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 as well as other committees, prior to his enthronement as ecumenical patriarch.

Bartholomew's tenure has been characterized by intra-Orthodox cooperation, intra-Christian and inter-religious dialogue, such as formal visits to Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Muslim leaders previously visited by an ecumenical patriarch. He has exchanged numerous invitations with church and state dignitaries. His efforts to promote religious freedom and human rights, his initiatives to advance religious tolerance among the world's religions, as well as his efforts to promote ecology and the protection of the environment, have been widely noted, and these endeavors have earned him the title "The Green Patriarch".[19][20] Among his many international positions, he currently sits on the Board of World Religious Leaders for the Elijah Interfaith Institute.[21] In 2018 the Moscow Patriarchate broke communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a result of disputes over his decision to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.[22][23]

Early life and background[edit]

Dimitrios Arhondonis was born in the village of Agioi Theodoroi on the island of Imbros (now Gökçeada, Turkey), son of Christos and Meropi Archodónis (née Skarlatos), both of Greek descent. He was the fourth and last child and as a boy helped his father in his coffee shop that also doubled as a barber's.[24]

Bartholomew was the target of an assassination plot which was planned to take place on 29 May 2013. One suspect was arrested and there is an ongoing search for two others.[25]

Ordinations and ecclesiastical appointments[edit]


As ecumenical patriarch, he has been particularly active internationally. One of his first focuses has been on rebuilding the once-persecuted Eastern Orthodox churches of the former Eastern Bloc following the fall of Communism there in 1990. As part of this effort he has worked to strengthen ties among the various national churches and patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He has also continued the reconciliation dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church started by his predecessors, and initiated dialogue with other faiths, including other Christian Churches, Muslims, and Jews.[26][27]

United States President Barack Obama meets with Bartholomew
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem


He has also gained a reputation as a prominent environmentalist, putting the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate behind various international environmental causes.[28] This has earned him the nicknames of "the Green Patriarch" and "the Green Pope",[29][30][31][32] and in 2002 he was honored with the Sophie Prize for his contribution to environmentalism.[33] He has also been honoured with the Congressional Gold Medal,[34] the highest award which may be bestowed by the Legislative Branch of the United States government.


In an interview published on 19 November 2006 in the daily newspaper Sabah, Bartholomew addressed the issues of religious freedom and the then upcoming papal trip to Turkey. He also referred to the closing of the Halki seminary by saying: "As Turkish citizens, we pay taxes. We serve in the military. We vote. As citizens we do everything. We want the same rights. But it does not happen... If Muslims want to study theology, there are 24 theology faculties. Where are we going to study?" He also addressed the issue of his ecumenical title and it not being accepted by the Turkish government: "We've had this title since the 6th century... The word ecumenical has no political content. [...] This title is the only thing that I insist on. I will never renounce this title."[35][36]

Ecumenical dialogue[edit]

During his trip to Turkey in November 2006, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Istanbul on the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. The Pope participated in the feast day services of St. Andrew the First Apostle, the patron saint of the Church of Constantinople. This was the third official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by a pope (the first being by Paul VI in 1967, and the second by John Paul II in 1979). He attended the papal inauguration of Pope Francis on 19 March 2013, paving the way for better Catholic–Orthodox relations. It was the first time that the spiritual head of Eastern Orthodox Christians had attended a papal inauguration since the Great Schism in 1054.[37][38] After, he invited Pope Francis to travel with him to the Holy Land in 2014 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the embrace between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. Pope Francis was also invited to the Patriarchate for the feast day of Saint Andrew (30 November).[39]

Support of refugees, reunification and peace[edit]

On 16 April 2016 he visited, together with Pope Francis and Archbishop Hieronymus, the Moria Refugee Camp in the island of Lesbos, to call the attention of the world to the refugee issue.[40] In December 2018, he visited the Korean DMZ and prayed for permanent peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula.[41][42]

Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine[edit]

Bartholomew with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, 3 November 2018

In October 2018 the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate agreed to grant autocephaly (independence) to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, to reestablish a stauropegion of the ecumenical patriarch in Kyiv, to revoke the legal binding of the letter of 1686 which led to the Russian Orthodox Church establishing jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Church, and to lift the excommunications which affected clergy and faithful of two then unrecognized Orthodox churches in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP). In response, the Russian Orthodox Church announced it was cutting ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which marked the beginning of the 2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism.[43]

On 5 January 2019, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew granted autocephaly to the newly founded Orthodox Church of Ukraine.[44]

Possession of Vatican St. Peter Bone Fragments[edit]

On 2 July 2019, it was announced that Pope Francis had given Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew possession of nine bone fragments believed to belong to St. Peter and which were publicly displayed by Pope Francis in November 2013 during a Vatican 'Year of Faith' Mass.[45] Bartholomew, who also gained possession of the bronze reliquary in which they are displayed,[45] described the Pope's gesture as "brave and bold".[45]

Macedonian Orthodox Church[edit]

In 2022, the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Archdiocese of Ohrid into communion, recognized North Macedonia as a canonical jurisdiction.[46][47]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine[edit]

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has criticized both the Russian state and the Russian church for the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, calling it a crime of aggression and saying that it has caused enormous suffering both to the Ukrainian and the Russian people.[48]




He received an honorary doctorate from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea on 23 June 2005.

In October 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from Fordham University in the United States.[57]

He received an honorary PhD. from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem on 6 December 2017.[58]

In December 2018, he received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine.[59]

In October 2021, he received an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame in the United States.[60]


On 1 November 2021, he received the Human Dignity Award from the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the premier global Jewish advocacy organization. The AJC honor recognizes Bartholomew's singular care for humanity and the environment, exceptional commitment to interreligious coexistence, and indispensable advancement of Orthodox-Jewish relations.

On 3 December 2013, he received the Global Thinkers Forum 2013 Award for Excellence in Peace and Collaboration.[61]

In 2012, he received the Four Freedoms Award for the Freedom of Worship.[62]

In 1997, Bartholomew received the Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards given by the United States.[63]

In 2002, he received the Sophie Prize for his work on the environment.[64]

In April 2008, he was included on the Time 100 most influential people in the world list.[65] On 13 March 2007, the third anniversary of the death of Cardinal Franz König, Bartholomew was awarded in Vienna's St. Stephen Cathedral the "Cardinal König Prize" from the Foundation "Communio et Progressio".[66]

In October 2022, he was one of the first faith leaders to have an audience with King Charles III.[67]

See also[edit]

Reference notes[edit]


  1. ^ John Meyendorff, John Chapin, Nicolas Lossky(1981), The Orthodox Church: its past and its role in the world today, Crestwood, N.Y. : St Vladimir's Seminary Press, p.132 ISBN 0-913836-81-8
  2. ^ Fitzgerald, Thomas E. (1998). The Orthodox Church. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-275-96438-2. THE VISIT OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople, together with a delegation that included five Metropolitans made an unprecedented visit to the United States 2–29 July 1990. Among the delegation was the present patriarch, Patriarch Bartholomew, who succeeded Patriarch Dimitrios in 1991. Although other Orthodox Patriarchs had visited this country in the past, this was the first visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch. His visit had a special significance because he is viewed as the first bishop of the Orthodox Church. As such, the Ecumenical Patriarch is frequently looked upon as the spiritual leader of the 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world
  3. ^ Holt, Andrew P.; Muldoon, James (2008). Competing Voices from the Crusades. Greenwood World Pub. p. xiv. ISBN 978-1-84645-011-2. made during a visit to Greece in 2001 for the crusaders' sack of Constantinople in 1204. Three years later, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, finally accepted the Pope's
  4. ^ Eastern Churches Journal: A Journal of Eastern Christendom. Society of Saint John Chrysostom. 2004. p. 181. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew and spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  5. ^ Stewart, Dona J. (2013). The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical and Cultural Perspectives. Routledge. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-415-78243-2. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  6. ^ W. El-Ansary; D. Linnan (26 November 2010). Muslim and Christian Understanding: Theory and Application of "A Common Word". Springer. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-230-11440-1. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th Archbishop to the 2,000-year-old Church of Constantinople (Istanbul), "first among equals" of Orthodox bishops worldwide, and spiritual leader to 300 million faithful.
  7. ^ Jewish Political Studies Review. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 2001. p. 8. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of an estimated 300 million Orthodox Christians around the ..
  8. ^ Moore, Kathleen Dean; Nelson, Michael P. (15 April 2011). Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. Trinity University Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-59534-105-1. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  9. ^ The Living Church. The Living Church by Morehouse-Gorham Company. 1997. p. 3. the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is now touring 14 cities on his first visit to the United States. The 57-year-old leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians wore a gold and crimson mandya with train and tinkling bells
  10. ^ Marshall, Katherine; Keough, Lucy (2005). Finding Global Balance: Common Ground Between the Worlds of Development and Faith. World Bank Publications. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8213-6247-1. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  11. ^ Bassett, Libby; United Nations Environment Programme (2000). Earth and Faith: A Book of Reflection for Action. UNEP/Earthprint. p. 16. ISBN 978-92-807-1915-4. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
  12. ^ Fairchild, Mary. "Christianity:Basics:Eastern Orthodox Church Denomination". Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  13. ^ Taylor, Bron (10 June 2008). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. A&C Black. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-4411-2278-0. The spiritual leader of the over 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – who has widely ...
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  19. ^ Simons, Marlise (3 December 2012). "Bartholomew I of Constantinople's Bold Green Stance – The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
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  22. ^ "Russian Orthodox Church breaks "Eucharistic communion" with Patriarcate of Constantinople - Vatican News". 16 October 2018. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  23. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (15 October 2018). "Russia Takes Further Step Toward Major Schism in Orthodox Church (Published 2018)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
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  25. ^ Kaya, Bayram (10 May 2013). "One arrested as plot to assassinate Patriarch Bartholomew uncovered". Zaman. Archived from the original on 10 May 2013. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
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  27. ^ Recent Patriarchal Encyclicals on Religious Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence (2002) George C. Papademetriou Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 39
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  29. ^ Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: insights into an Orthodox Christian worldview (2007) John Chryssavgis International Journal of Environmental Studies, 64, (1);pp: 9 – 18
  30. ^ "The Green Patriarch". Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. 29 August 2013. Archived from the original on 3 September 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
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  48. ^ "Russian Orthodox Church shares responsibility for Russia's aggression – Ecumenical Patriarch". Euromaidan Press. 23 March 2023.
  49. ^ Патриарх Константинопольский Варфоломей награжден орденом "Золотое руно" — высшим орденом Грузии для иностранных граждан [Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was awarded the Order of the "Golden Fleece", the highest order of Georgia for foreign citizens]. (in Russian). Русская Православная Церковь [Russian Orthodox Church]. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
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  55. ^ "HIRH Prince Gharios El Chemor is Blessed by Ecumenical Patriarch" (blog). 15 July 2016.
  56. ^ "Matkoille". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 7 May 1993. p. A 4.
  57. ^ "Ecumenical Patriarch Receives Honorary Degree". Fordham University. 28 October 2003. Archived from the original on 9 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  58. ^ "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Doctor Honoris Causa of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem". 11 December 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  59. ^ "Вселенскому патриарху Варфоломею присвоено звание почетного доктора Национального университета "Киево-Могилянская академия"" [Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of the National University "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy"]. Интерфакс-Украина [Interfax-Ukraine] (in Russian). 26 January 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  60. ^ "Academic Convocation and Honorary Degree Conferral on His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew" (Press release). Office of the President, University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  61. ^ "Awards for Excellence". Global Thinkers Forum. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  62. ^ "Four Freedoms Awards". Roosevelt Institute. Archived from the original on 25 March 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
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  64. ^ "Prize Winners » 2002". The Sophie Prize. 12 June 2002. Archived from the original on 7 December 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
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  67. ^ "The Royal Week 22-28 October 2022". Royal Family official website. Retrieved 31 October 2022.

External links[edit]

Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Metropolitan of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Meliton (Hadjis)
Metropolitan of Chalcedon
Succeeded by
Preceded by Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople