World Children’s Day, 21 November 2018
I have the great pleasure and honour to welcome His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has kindly agreed to be with us today and deliver a keynote speech at the occasion of our celebratory event marking World Children’s Day.
Patriarch Bartholomew is a prominent Orthodox church leader who is well known and respected for his commitment to inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian dialogue, to inter-religious relations and for his contribution to raising ecological awareness on a global level. He has been “walking, praying and working” with many of us for a long time as he served on the executive and central committees of the WCC and the Faith and Order Commission, and has offered leadership, encouraged and supported the work of the World Council of Churches many times and in many ways.
Your All Holiness,
Your ecumenical commitment reflects the great potential of each and all religious leaders to contribute, together with partners from the civil society, to confronting together urgent issues of our world. Today, together with UNICEF, we make an important step in trying to open up new avenues and possibilities for Churches’ Commitments to Children. We thank you for agreeing to be with us and to walk with us.
You are known worldwide as the “Green Patriarch”. In the introduction of his encyclical “Laudato si” Pope Francis presents you as a pioneer in this urgent field. Today we recognize you to as a pioneer in another urgent field: our churches’ responsibility to protect and support children, to defend their rights and care for their well-being.
Many of your photos are with children. You do manifest your love, concern and care for them at any occasion. The presence among us of children from the Greek school in Geneva testifies to this reality.
In your Christmas message, in 2016, you appealed to all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate around the word “to respect the identity and sacredness of childhood”. Furthermore, as you mentioned in the same message, “In light of the global refugee crisis that especially affects the rights of children; in light of the plague of child mortality, hunger and child labor, child abuse and psychological violence, as well as the dangers of altering children’s souls through their uncontrolled exposure to the influence of contemporary electronic means of communication and their subjection to consumerism” you had declared 2017 as the Year of Protection of the Sacredness of Childhood, inviting the faithful of your church and all people of good will to recognize and respect the rights and integrity of children. With all these in mind, we could probably hope that you may one day also become “Children’s Patriarch”.
Your All Holiness, once again, many thanks for being with us today and, in advance, many thanks for accompanying us in our long pilgrimage of justice for the well-being of children!
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches