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(RNS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, will visit New Orleans this week (Oct. 20-24) for a symposium on the environment with scientists, policymakers and religious leaders.
Bartholomew, spiritual leader to 275 million Orthodox Christians around the globe, arrives in New Orleans on Tuesday and will deliver the symposium’s keynote speech on Wednesday, according to his church’s Web site.
The visit is generating excitement for Orthodox believers in the area, including those at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Mobile, Ala.
“Any time the head of your church, your spiritual leader, gets this close to the community, it’s a blessing, and the message he brings of taking care of God’s creation is important,” said the Rev. Elias Stevens.
Bartholomew has persistently proclaimed the primacy of spiritual values in determining environmental ethics and action. His endeavors earned him the title “Green Patriarch” and Time magazine has named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world for “defining environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility.”
“He was green before it was cool to be green,” said George T. Koulianos, a member of Annunciation.
Following the New Orleans leg of the visit, according to the church’s itinerary, Bartholomew will visit Atlanta, New York and Washington. The trip will conclude Nov. 5 with a reception and dinner in his honor with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the itinerary, which is subject to change.
This will be Bartholomew’s second visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The first was just four months after the storm, when he offered prayers for the victims.
Bartholomew, who was elected in 1991, is based in Istanbul but has sponsored meetings to focus attention on environmental issues in the Arctic, the Amazon, the Adriatic, Baltic and Black seas and the Danube river.
By Dan Murphy
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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