Fordham Welcomes Ecumenical Patriarch

Mass Held at University Church to Honor Visiting Archbishop Bartholomew


Published: November 5, 2009

On Oct. 27, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch visited Fordham University.  His All Holiness received an honorary Doctorate of Laws on behalf of the University, as well as a Fordham sweatshirt and baseball cap, deeming him an “honorary Ram.”

Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th successor of the Orthodox Christian Church, founded by St. Andrew.  He has occupied the First Throne of the Orthodox Church since 1991.

Rev. Jospeh M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, and Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., dean of Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC), greeted The Patriarch, as did other members of the Fordham community. Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, and Edward Cardinal Egan, Papal Delegate of Pope Benedict XVI, were also present at the ceremony. Each addressed the Patriarch personally and expressed his deep veneration for Patriarch Bartholomew.

“We honor you for the extraordinary service that you have given to the Orthodox Churches, the whole Christian family and the world,” McShane said.  The Patriarch was honored for his remarkable efforts to reconcile past differences with the Roman Catholic Church, noting his visits to the Vatican. Patriarch Bartholomew was also honored for his role in environmental efforts. The Patriarch has conducted environmental symposiums regarding the Black Sea, Danube River, Baltic and Adriatic Seas and, most recently, the Mississippi River. These efforts have earned him the name, “The Green Patriarch.”

After personal greetings, the Honorary Doctorate of Laws was granted to Patriarch Bartholomew on the altar of the University Church at Rose Hill. Standing alongside the Patriarch and McShane were Aristotle Papanikolaou and George Demacopoulos, founders of the Orthodox Christian Studies Program at Fordham.

Patriarch Bartholomew then addressed the audience to express his sincere gratitude. He spoke about communities of transformation and opening up oneself to the heart, to others and to creation.  He commented on the peaceful protests of significant figures of the 21st century, and said, “The most provocative message is loving our enemy and doing good to those who hate us.”

Following the Patriarch’s address, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, rose to give the Benediction. The Fordham University choir then sang a traditional Orthodox hymn, “Polychronion.”

The Patriarch also made an appearance at Fordham Prep to address those who were unable to fit in the University Church, and watched the ceremony from a screen in the auditorium.

The Patriarch’s visit to Fordham was one of “love and beginning,” according to McShane, who exclaimed, “Axios!” to commemorate the honor. He said it also strengthened the relationship between the Orthodox and Catholic communities.

“His visit affirmed Fordham’s status as one of the main conduits of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue in the world,” said Constantine Kokinakis, FCLC ’11, a Greek Orthodox student. “That’s why I’m very happy I attend this university.”