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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Named 2002 Winner of the Sophie Prize for Leadership on the Environment

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Apr 16, 2002

New York - The Sophie Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious environment and development prizes, will be awarded this year to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome and spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, who is credited with pioneering efforts in raising environmental awareness and linking faith to the environment.

Speaking on behalf of the jury and board of Norway’s Sophie Foundation, Chairperson Elin Enge said of the Ecumenical Patriarch, “His leadership has managed to raise the environmental awareness of 300 million members of Orthodox Churches and challenged religious leaders of all faiths to do the same.” Known as the “Green Patriarch”, His All Holiness was cited for his spiritual and practical ecumenical leadership in the protection and healing of the Earth.

Upon learning of the news of the award, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who as Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America is the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, said:

“This is indeed a well deserved recognition of our Ecumenical Patriarch who is an inspiring and truly pioneer leader in the protection of our environment. He has worked tirelessly, passionately and methodically over the years in order to sensitize people all over the world and raise their awareness and consciousness of the preciousness and sacredness of the physical world in which we live. The decision of the Sophie Foundation to honor our Patriarch fills all of us with deep joy and makes us truly proud in the Lord.”

The Sophie Prize, which is valued at US $100,000, is international and is awarded annually to individuals or an organization that has created awareness to alternatives to modern-day development or has initiated such alternatives in a pioneering or inventive manner. The Prize was established in 1997 by the Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder and his wife Siri Dannevig.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has challenged many aspects of the economic globalization of our day, which widens the gap between rich and poor and leads to excessive consumption. Amongst religious leaders, he has taken initiatives in addressing the environmental crisis and has provided a theological framework in which to address environmental concerns. He has said, “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin”. He has linked his concerns for the environment to issues of justice, human rights and peace.

Through his involvement with the crisis of September 11, 2001, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, whose throne is in Istanbul, Turkey, has brought together leaders of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to condemn terrorism and conflicts waged in the name of religion, met with United States President W. George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell and urgently appealed to world leaders to intervene in the Middle East situation.

However, he set the tone of his ministry as early as 1991 when he was enthroned by urging all Orthodox Churches to continue the observance on September 1 of each year as a special day of prayer for the environment, which he helped inaugurate under his predecessor, Patriarch Dimitrios, in 1989, and in launching specific initiatives on the environment, including three international symposia that brought together scientists, environmentalists, policymakers and religious leaders to draw attention to the degradation of the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and Danube River. He continues those efforts with a fourth symposium this year that will address the problems of the Adriatic Sea and will lead the fifth symposia on the Baltic Sea next year.

Due to these efforts, as well as a series of international seminars he convened on the environment in relation to ethics, religious education and justice, he was honored in 2000 by Scenic Hudson with the International Visionary Award for Environmental Achievement.

In accepting the award, he said, “Our responsibility for whatever happens around us is an unavoidable given. We not only destroy the beauty of created nature, but we also kill our fellow human beings. To remedy the situation, we should become conscious of this great sin, and allow it to become an important motivation to ameliorate our environmental behavior, and lead us to a systematic effort so that our true common responsibility may become increasingly socially acceptable.”

The Sophie Prize will be awarded to His All Holiness in ceremonies in Oslo, Norway on June12, 2002, shortly after the completion of the Symposium on the Adriatic Sea.

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