University announces 2020 commencement speaker
Observer Staff Report | Monday, February 24, 2020
The University announced in a Monday press release that Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, will be the school’s primary commencement speaker this year.
In addition to his commencement address, Patriarch Bartholomew will also receive an honorary degree.
According to the release, Bartholomew is the “spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.” His church can trace its origins to Christianity’s earliest days, the release said.
“Patriarch Bartholomew has been a champion for understanding and encounter among the world’s religions, as well as for environmental initiatives, religious freedom and human rights,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in the release. “We are honored that on his visit to the United States in May, the Patriarch will take time to offer his reflections to our graduates and their families.”
Bartholomew is the 270th archbishop of Constantinople, according to the release. He has held the post since 1991. He has put a priority on interreligious dialogue with other Christian denominations, as well as Judaism and Islam. He has also worked on issues related to religious freedom, human rights and the environment. He earned the moniker the “Green Patriarch” for his environmental advocacy, the release said.
Patriarch Bartholomew was born “Demetrios Arhondonis in 1940 on the island of Imvros,” which is now a part of Turkey, the release said. He was ordained a priest in 1969, after entering the diaconate in 1961.
Having previously served as metropolitan — the leader of an archdiocese or diocese — of Philadelphia and Chalcedon, he has been honored with 35 honorary degrees. In 1997, the United States Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal.
The release said other honorary degree recipients for this year will be announced later in the semester.