February 29 Marks 80th Birthday of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. File photo

2020 is a leap year, meaning that February has 29 instead of 28 days, and millions of people this year are celebrating their birthday accurately, for the first time since …2016!

A person born on February 29 may be called a “leapling” or a “leaper,” and depending on where one lives, he or she can legally celebrates his or her birthday either on February 28 or March 1.

One of these people with the rare privilege of being born on February 29 is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who was born on a day like this, on February 29, 1940, on the island of Imbros, currently known as Gökçeada in western Turkey.

The Ecumenical Patriarch, who was baptized as Dimitrios Arhondonis, has been serving the Greek Orthodox Church for many decades of his long life.

Bartholomew is the 270th Patriarch of Constantinople, serving as primus inter pares (first among equals) in Eastern Christianity.

Bartholomew’s character and actions throughput his career have created an unparalleled persona, and he is renowned worldwide for his wisdom and spiritual strength, the exact qualities required by this important position.

November 2, 1991 was the day Bartholomew assumed the responsibility of being the head of almost 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, serving in the prestigious role that is made much more difficult because his historic diocese is inside a predominantly-Muslim country.

Bartholomew has been a very active Patriarch, participating in spiritual dialogues with representatives from other Christian churches, as well as other religions all around the globe.

The Ecumenical Patriarch is also known as the ”Green Patriarch,” because of his constant efforts to spread the message of environmental awareness. For this reason, in 2002 he was honored with the Sophie Prize for his contribution to environmentalism and the global environmentalist movement.

He has also been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal of the United States, the highest award which may be bestowed by the Legislative Branch of the US to an individual.

In May of 2020 Bartholomew will travel to Notre Dame University in Indiana to accept an honorary doctorate and give the keynote address at their commencement ceremony.

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