Orthodox Church Patriarch Receives Honorary Degree from Yale

His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree at Yale University’s 297th Commencement on May 25.

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew and has been the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide since 1991. He is known both in Europe and the United States as the “Green Patriarch” because of his outspoken concern for the environment. He has convened an international symposium on the oceans and an environmental conference on the Black Sea. At the Santa Barbara Symposium on Religion, Science, and the Environment in 1997, he declared degradation of the natural world to be sin, which is believed to be the first time a religious leader has characterized environmental harm as sinful behavior. He has also used his office in the Orthodox Church to proclaim an annual message on the protection of creation.

The Ecumenical Patriarch is a noted scholar of the canon law of his church and has earned several advanced degrees. He is widely traveled and is fluent in seven languages. As a Turkish citizen, he has used his unique perspective to foster dialogue between the Christian and Islamic worlds. Throughout the world, he has worked persistently to advance reconciliation among Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, and Orthodox communities, and to build unity among Orthodox Christians worldwide.

Yale’s citation reads: “As the religious leader of millions upon millions of Orthodox Christians around the world, many of them emerging from decades of oppression, you have become a focus for spiritual renewal, unity and interfaith understanding. You have crossed religious and political boundaries with your message of hope and peace, living up to your historic title of Ecumenical Patriarch. In faithfulness to the cosmic dimension of Eastern Orthodoxy, you have promoted harmony between humanity and nature, which has earned you well-deserved recognition as the ‘Green Patriarch.’ For your work around the world on behalf of all peoples, Yale is proud to hail you as an ‘Axios’ – truly worthy – and to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Divinity.”

The following men and women also were awarded honorary degrees this year:

– Lena Horne, entertainer, Doctor of Humane Letters;

– Gerda Lerner, historian, Doctor of Letters;

– David McCullough, Yale Class of 1955, author, Doctor of Letters;

– Sadako Ogata, humanitarian, Doctor of Humane Letters;

– Frederick P. Rose, Yale Class of 1944 Engineering, volunteer leader and philanthropist, Doctor of Humane Letters;

– Robert L. Shaw, conductor, Doctor of Music;

– Edward O. Wilson, scientist and author, Doctor of Science;

– Muhammad Yunus, economist, Doctor of Social Sciences.

A photograph of His All Holiness Bartholomew I and a group photo of all the honorary doctorate recipients are available from Yale’s Office of Public Affairs.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325