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The Green Patriarch, head of the Orthodox Church, preaches the doctrine of environmentalism
St. George's - or, as it is formally known, the Venerable Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George the Great Martyr at the Phanar - is perched above the city of Istanbul, overlooking magnificent waterways. To Orthodox Christians, no building in the world is more important. Since 1600, St. George's has been the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch, spiritual leader of world Orthodoxy.
Its gray stone exterior is austere, but its interior is warmly illuminated by crystal chandeliers and silver oil lamps that shed light across three aisles and many icons: Christ as "the True Vine," St. John the Baptist, and St. George on horseback, to name a few. A series of nineteenth-century oil paintings depicts scenes from the Old and the New Testaments. At the south wall stands part of the Column of Flagellation, to which Christ was bound and then flogged.
And there, at the head of it all, on the patriarchal thronos, Bartholomew I presides, as he has since 1991 in the role of Ecumenical Patriarch. His All Holiness is the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, and he speaks with authority and gravity. From a distance, the Patriarch himself seems iconic; his long white beard, solemn visage, and traditional bejeweled vestments and miter link him to the timeless religious figures celebrated in art throughout the church.
But later, after the Divine Liturgy, from behind a desk in his office, he is friendly and relaxed. Instead of the stern, magisterial figure on the thronos, Bartholomew seems shorter and more slightly built. His skin is fair, his long beard a marked contrast to his smooth pate. Despite the formal black robe, he is approachable, and his gold-framed glasses lend him a contemporary look. He smiles - even laughs - easily, his English is confident, and he is very much rooted in the moment. This is not an imposing religious leader cloistered behind monastic walls;
Throughout his tenure as Patriarch, …