The Person of the Year for 2021, which is about to expire and becomes history in the perpetual twirling of time, is His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew because he completed thirty years of sacred and fruitful Patriarchy – the longest in recent centuries.
Patriarch Bartholomew was born February 29,1940, in the village of Agioi Theodoroi on the Aegean island of Imvros (Turkey), to Christos and Meropi Archontonis, who christened him Demetrios. His father was a barber and coffee shop owner in which Demetris worked in the summer months.
Patriarch Bartholomew doesn’t simply love Imvros, he adores the island of is birth. It is the place where he opened his crying eyes to the miracle and enigma of life. It was at the school of his village of Agioi Theodoroi where he learned to verbalize the Godly things and the learnings of the ‘Genos’.
It was the will of God that this poor but brilliant boy born on a captive and tormented island would become the 270th successor of St. Andrew the First Called Apostle of Christ, the Primate of the Orthodox Church, called upon “to oversee all nations,” becoming the Patriarch from Imvros, the Patriarch of the Genos and Ecumene.
Following his studies at Imvros and Constantinople, he enrolled at the renowned Theological School of Halki, graduating with high honors in 1961. He was immediately ordained to the Holy Diaconate on August 13, 1961 at the Cathedral of Imvros by his Spiritual Father, the then Metropolitan of Imvros and Tenedos Meliton who later became Metropolitan of Chalcedon, and given the name Bartholomew.
From 1963-68, he pursued postgraduate studies, on scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, at the Pontifical Oriental Institute of the Gregorian University in Rome. He received his doctorate in Canon Law having submitted his dissertation: Concerning the Codification of the Sacred Canons and Canonical Regulations in the Orthodox Church. He pursued further studies at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland and the University of Munich, specializing in ecclesiastical law. He is fluent in seven languages – Greek, English, Turkish, Italian, Latin, French, and German.
The Patriarch has published many articles and is a founding member of the Society for Justice for Eastern Churches, of which he has served as vice president.
When he returned to Constantinople in 1968, he was appointed Assistant Dean of the Sacred Theological School of Halki and, on October 19,1969, was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by his spiritual father.
When Dimitrios was elected Ecumenical Patriarch in 1972, he established his Patriarchal Office and named the young Archimandrite Bartholomew as its director. On Christmas Day, 1973, Father Bartholomew was consecrated a bishop and named Metropolitan of Philadelphia (of Asia Minor). He remained as head of the Personal Patriarchal Office until his enthronement as the Metropolitan of Chalcedon on January 14,1990. In July 1990, he accompanied Patriarch Dimitrios on his historic 27-day visit to the United States as his chief advisor and administrator.
On October 22, 1991, His All Holiness was unanimously elected by the grace of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, following the death of Patriarch Demetrios on October 2, 1991.
Patriarch Bartholomew is a grown-up man with a child’s heart. He is the Patriarch of love, peace, and reconciliation but at the same time he is strict when the life of Church and of those who advance it are subjected to doubt and subversion.
Many things have been said and written this past year describing the Patriarchal journey, witness, and personality. In this article announcing the Person of the Year we will say that Bartholomew of Imvros and the Ecumene knows how to evaluate the past, to walk the present, and to aim into the future, in other words, he is a man of vision. After all without vision, there is no hope and without hope, history come to an end.
This vision and hope that characterizes Patriarch Bartholomew’s tenure was manifested five years ago at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that was held in June of 2016 in Crete despite the problems and the sabotage that was attempted against the Mother Church by certain ‘Mother killers’ (μητραλοίες). In his conduct at the time, Patriarch Bartholomew proved that he is an essential and charismatic leader of the Church, proceeding with the Synod, which is the greatest and most historic landmark of his Patriarchy.
Another landmark is the granting of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine despite the reactions and screaming by some who are trying to make the Orthodox Church merely a Federation of national churches, departing from the centuries-long canonical and ecclesiological tradition of the Church.
Patriarch Bartholomew’s initiatives throughout his Patriarchy regarding the protection of the natural environment, or rather, the sacredness of the Creation of God has become the prophetic cry of agony of our times, as the extreme weather phenomena that are the result of climate change become more and more threatening for all nations of the World. Patriarch Bartholomew continues to write history.