Freedom of Worship Citation to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
The Freedom of every person to Worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world…
On this 12th day of May 2012, in recognition of his tireless efforts to bring peace and understanding to the peoples of all faiths; to urge humanity to treat the environment with the same love and respect with which we worship God, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom of Worship Medal is awarded to
His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Born on the historic island of Imvros, the son of a barber and devoted mother, your hunger for spirituality led you to pursue your education at the renowned Theological School of Halki, where you graduated with high honors in 1961. Your ties to the Orthodox Church were soon strengthened by your ordination as Holy Diaconate at the Metropolitan Cathedral of your beloved isle, where you were given the name Bartholomew.
Your spiritual quest then led you to the Pontifical Oriental Institute, at the Gregorian University in Rome, where you received a doctorate in Cannon Law; then further studies at the highly famed Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland, and finally the University of Munich.
You returned to Turkey in 1968 to become the assistant dean of your alma mater. Ordination to the Holy Priesthood came in October the following year, and shortly thereafter, the position of Archimandrite in the Patriarchal of St. Andrew.
The election of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, in 1972 proved one of the most important events in your life. Under his leadership you were made Director of his Patriarchal Office, Bishop of Asia Minor and in January of 1990, Metropolitan of Chalcedon. For nearly twenty years you devoted yourself to his service, and so it was only fitting that upon his death in October 1991, you were unanimously elected by the Grace of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.
As the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians, and as Patriarch of the Church that stands at the crossroad of East and West, your passion for religious tolerance has led you to seek reconciliation with the Roman Catholic and Protestant Faiths of Europe; to promote dialogue between the Jews and Palestinians of the Middle East; to extend the hand of friendship to China and other parts of the Far East and to do the same in the Americas. At home in your native land, personal experience has taught you what freedom of worship truly means. In 1971, the Turkish Government closed the Halki Theological School, rendering it impossible for members of your faith to receive Orthodox training in their country of birth. These same authorities also refused to recognize the Patriarchate of Constantinople as anything more than a local religious community. You refused to accept these measures; you repeatedly called for the school to be re-opened and steadfastly refused to give up your Ecumenical title. Thanks to your efforts, the Turkish Court recently ruled that the Government must recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a legal institution with international standing, although sadly, the school remains closed. Throughout, however, you never turned to bitterness, but continued to preach the gospel of reconciliation between your fellow Muslim and Christian countrymen, setting an example for us all.
Not content to confine yourself to the great spiritual issues of our time, you have also reminded us that we must do more to protect God’s creation; that humanity and nature “form a seamless garment of existence,” and that as such, “there is no escaping our responsibility for the environment.”
Like Franklin Roosevelt, you have called for the protection of that most intimate of human rights—the right of all people to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. You have also urged us not to forget our responsibilities to our neighbors—be they Christian, Muslim, Jew or any other faith—or to our planet, which is home to each of us. Your spirit of tolerance remains a beacon of hope for humanity, and for this we thank and honor you today.