MIDDELBURG, Netherlands

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, New Rome and the entire Orthodox Church  has been chosen to receive the “Freedom Award,” which acknowledges his efforts in promoting religious freedom, dialogue and environmental concerns.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and prime minister Mark Rutte presented the award to him in a ceremony here May 12.

Bartholomew I was nominated for this award for his immense contribution to dialogues among Christianity, Islam and Judaism in his native Turkey, and elsewhere. His call to the churches to work for environmental protection and justice has earned him the title of “the green Patriarch.”

The four Freedom Awards are presented to persons whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to the principles which U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed as essential to democracy in his historic speech to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Bartholomew I has been engaged with the World Council of Churches in the promotion of unity among churches and in addressing many concerns of the ecumenical movement. This relationship has deep historical roots, as the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a founding member of the WCC.  

Congratulating Bartholomew I on his award, WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said, “We appreciate the recognition His All Holiness Bartholomew I is being given through the ‘Freedom Award’ for his contribution to inter-religious dialogue and his efforts to promote ecological and environmental justice.”

Renowned Dutch theologian Willem A. Visser 't Hooft, who took up office in the WCC as its first general secretary in 1948, also received the “Freedom of Worship” award in 1982.

This year along with Bartholomew I, other recipients of the award include Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil; Ela Ramesh Bhatt, human rights worker from India; Hussain Al- Shahristani, deputy prime minister for energy in Iraq and the Al-Jazeera Television Network.