Thursday, August 1, 2013

"I hope you all come back someday...maybe for your honeymoon!"

“Make sure to address him as Your All Holiness”—not a class instruction you hear everyday. 

Today the global scholars had the exclusive opportunity to meet with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I. HAH is the leader of Orthodox Christianity, a category of people that encompasses nearly 225 million people. In fact, HAH rules over the second largest group of Christians behind the Roman Catholics. So, getting to meet him was kind of a big deal. 

As we boarded the bus from Bilgi campus to the Patriarchate we all began to get very excited about the prospect of getting to meet a world leader. As our excitement built we were greeted with a tour of the Orthodox church on site. 

We then headed up to meet His All Holiness and got to hear him speak for 30 minutes. He gave us a very warm welcome and briefly touched on the eight different environmental symposiums he has created that have taken him from the North Pole to the Mississippi. Clearly, this man has an advanced understanding of leadership and diversity as he has been wildly successful in bringing leaders and followers of a variety of religions and affiliations together to work towards a common goal of bettering the environment. While some may consider religious leaders conservative individuals, HAH was mindful of the fact that many of us were not Christian or religious—he commented a number of times on how we are all one big family searching for love, reconciliation, freedom, and justice. His talk with us was refreshing and made us feel wanted in Istanbul as he told us, “Three weeks is simply not enough. I hope you all come back someday...maybe for your honeymoon!”

Waiting to meet the patriarch 
HAH up close!

Immediately following the audience, HAH told us that there was a 45-minute mass we could sit in on. None of knew the language so the mass was a little hard to get through, but something that many of us found interesting was the call to prayer during the mass. In the middle of the Orthodox chanting that is (heavily) involved in a mass, the national Muslim call to prayer came on and could be heard through the walls of the church. It was one of those moments where you just realize that despite wars, disagreements, and sour histories, interfaith existence is really a beautiful thing.

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