Bartholomeos I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, has joined the Dalai Lama as one of two international religious figures named in the "Time 100" list, the people deemed by Time magazine to be the world's most influential persons - writes Chris Herlinger.
In a tribute to the 68-year-old Bartholomeos, appearing in the 12 May issue of the US-based news weekly, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, praised the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch by noting Bartholomeos' commitment to addressing issues related to the environment.
"In a way that is profoundly loyal to the traditions of worship and reflection in the Eastern Orthodox Church, he has insisted that ecological questions are essentially spiritual ones," Williams wrote about Bartholomeos, who is sometimes called the "Green Patriarch", because of his because of his public support for the environmental cause.
"He has stressed that a world in which God the Creator uses the material stuff of the universe to communicate who he is and what he wants is one that demands reverence from human beings," Williams wrote. "Probably more than any other religious leader from any faith, Patriarch Bartholomeos, has kept open this spiritual dimension of environmentalism."
Istanbul-based Bartholomeos is not a figure as well known in the West as the Dalai Lama or Pope Benedict XVI - a fact noted by Williams, who wrote: "The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople enjoys a resonant historical title but, unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic context, has little direct executive power in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. Patriarchs have had to earn their authority on the world stage, and, in fact, not many Patriarchs in recent centuries have done much more than maintain the form of their historic dignities."
But, Williams said, Bartholomeos has broken with that tradition, taking seriously the Ecumenical Patriarch's "pastoral responsibility for 'the whole inhabited world'". He noted, "This brave and visionary pastor has given a completely new sense to the ancient honorific."
Environmental concerns were also behind the selection by Time magazine of American Richard Cizik of the Washington-based National Association of Evangelicals as among the world's leading "scientists and thinkers", alongside Eric Chivian, a Nobel prize winner. Chivian is the director of Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, and has worked with Cizik on shared environmental concerns.
"What brings Chivian and Cizik together is a shared passion for the environment, although they act on that passion in very different ways. Chivian is a highly trained scientist who tells stories like a teacher with the bedside manner of the general-practice physician he used to be," writes Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"Cizik quotes the Bible, carefully referring to 'creation care' rather than climate change or global warming, and advocates a brand of pro-life politics that extends well beyond human conception, up through the care of God's creation itself," Anderson noted.
Best-selling author Deepak Chopra wrote the tribute for the Dalai Lama, praising the Buddhist leader's "Gandhiesque nonviolent struggle". "To me, the most mystical thing about him is also the most ordinary: the Dalai Lama is happy. He's happy in the midst of chaos and turmoil," Chopra said. "To whom, then, does the Dalai Lama turn for inspiration? It's not a person but a place-beyond I and thou, beyond self and nonself. The wonder isn't that such a place can be found. The wonder is that one man makes it look so easy."
The full "Time 100" list is here: www.time.com/time/specials/2007/completelist/0,,1733748,00.html
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]