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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Makes Historic Visit to Iceland


STOCKHOLM His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I,

spiritual leader to the worlds 300 million Orthodox Christians, made his
first official visit to Iceland from October 12-15, 2017 as the official guest
and keynote speaker of the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly.
Announcements regarding this visit were regularly publicized by the Holy
Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia to the spiritual flock of the
Church in Scandinavia and on social media.

The Holy Metropolis of Sweden repeatedly expressed its grateful thanks

to His Excellency Mr. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Chairman of the Arctic
Circle, an organization designed to strengthen the international focus on
the future of the Arctic, for his kind invitation to the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and to all the ecclesiastical and civic leaders of Iceland who
contributed to the organization of this historic visit.

Patriarch Bartholomew arrived at Reykjavik Airport on Thursday

afternoon, October 12, 2017, accompanied by Messrs. Christos
Anastasiades and Petros Bazgarlo. He was greeted by His Eminence
Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia, Greeces
Ambassador to Norway H.E. Ms. Maria Diamanti, Greeces Honorary
Consul in Iceland the Hon. Mr. Rafn Alexander Sigurdsson, the Presiding
Priest of the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in
Oslo V. Rev. Fr. Alexander Loukatos, the Rev. Archdeacon Dr. John
Chryssavgis, the Parish Priest of the St. Nicholas Russian parish in
Reykjavik the Rev. Presbyter Fr. Timur Zolotusky, the head of the
Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Iceland Ms. Agnes M. Siguordardottir,
the Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Iceland Rev.
orvaldur Vdisson, the Chief of protocol for the Evangelical Lutheran
Diocese of Iceland H.E. Ambassador Grunnar Palsson, the General
Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Iceland Rev.
alldor Reynisson, representatives of the Roman Catholic Bishop of
Iceland David Bartimej Tencer Revs. Jakob Rolland and Peter Vosicky,
and the Protocol Officer of Icelands Foreign Ministry the Hon. Ms.
ristin Eva J. Sigurdardottir.
First Day of the Patriarchal Visit

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew thanked the officials on hand to

welcome him at the airport and subsequently visited historic downtown
Reykjavik accompanied by the members of the patriarchal entourage.
Later that evening, he attended a reception held in his honor by the
Evangelical Lutheran Diocese, where he was received by Agnes M.
Siguordardottir, who heads the aforementioned church.

During his greeting, Patriarch Bartholomew noted how touched he was

on the occasion of his first visit to Iceland as Ecumenical Patriarch. He
also thanked the organizers of the Arctic Circle Assembly and the
representatives of the National Church of Iceland for their invitation and
hospitality, while emphasizing the strong concern of the Orthodox
Church over the pollution and destruction of the environment, climate
change, the need for Christian unity. He also pointed out that these
issues were also discussed at the Holy and Great Council of the
Orthodox Church, which was held in Crete last summer.

Second Day of the Patriarchal Visit

On Friday, October 13, 2017, the opening session of the annual Arctic
Circle Assembly was held at the Harpa Convention Center in Reykjavik.
This event was attended by 2,000 people from 80 countries worldwide,
including representatives from the arts, sciences, political world,
business world, and technology sector.

The Assembly was officially commenced by Mr. lafur Ragnar

Grmsson, former president of Iceland for 20 years and current chairman
of the Arctic Circle, who delivered a greeting and welcomed the guests,
making special mention to the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch and
the other dignitaries and speakers in the audience.

Afterwards, addresses were delivered by the Prime Minister of Iceland

His Excellency Mr. Bjarni Benediktsson and the President of Iceland His
Excellency Mr. Guni Th. Jhannesson, who saluted the importance of
this assembly and the publicity being received by Iceland due to the
presence of so many dignitaries from all over the world.

Ecumencial Patriarch Bartholomew was in attendance for the addresses

by French Ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic Poles H.E. Sgolne
Royal, Chinas representatives for oceanic administration and the Arctic
affairs Messrs. Lin Shanqing and Gao Feng, Russian Ambassador for
Arctic Affairs H.E. Vladimir Barbin, Japanese Ambassador in charge of
Arctic Affairs H.E. Keiji Ide, Korean Ambassador for Arctic Affairs H.E.
Kim Young-jun, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and
Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, International Renewable Energy
Agency (IRENA).

On the morning of the same day, Patriarch Bartholomew met with Prime
Minister Benediktsson of Iceland at the Harpa Convention Center. During
the meeting, His All-Holiness presented the initiatives undertaken
personally by him and the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the protection of
the environment, while also detailing his meetings with ecclesiastical and
political leaders from all over the world and the organization of
international conferences, whose sole purpose was to promote public
awareness about environmental issues, the preservation of nature, and
the safeguarding of creation.

Among other things, Patriarch Bartholomew spoke about the

persecutions being suffered by Christians in the Middle East, while also
expressing his unwavering support towards them and highlighting the
fact that the ongoing persecution, including the destruction of their
homes and churches, threatens to displace Christianity from the wider

Prime Minister Benediktsson congratulated Patriarch Bartholomew for

his sensitivity to issues regarding the environment and spoke about
emerging technologies, noting that technological progress may
contribute greatly to resolving environmental issues facing the world. At
the end of their meeting, which lasted 20 minutes, both men exchanged
symbolic gifts.
His All-Holiness was accompanied at this meeting by Metropolitan
Cleopas and Rev. Dr. Chryssavgis. Immediately afterwards, Patriarch
Bartholomew attended a luncheon hosted by the prime minister of

Iceland in honor of the Arctic Assembly participants.

That same afternoon, in keeping with the invitation issued by former

President of Iceland and current Arctic Circle Chairman lafur Ragnar
Grmsson, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew delivered the keynote
address at the 2017 Assembly, with representatives of governments from
many nations, organizations, universities, and environmental institutions
all over the world in attendance.

His All-Holiness spoke about the significance and influence of religion in

sensitizing public opinion regarding the environmental crisis taking place
in the current era, noting the importance for spiritual leaders, scientists,
and politician to maintain dialogue and remain focused on the issue of
climate change.

If we want to change our position in terms of what we see, we must

change our position in terms of how we see, he stated, referring to the
issue of climate change.

We need to change our outlook regarding how we understand and

behave towards the world that surrounds us, how we use our knowledge
and skills to make it inhabitable and support it in all manners.

Immediately after his address, Patriarch Bartholomew attended the

discussion that followed, entitled ROADMAP: DEMOCRATIZING
CLIMATE ACTION, featuring Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder &
President, Emerson Collective, Peter Seligmann, Chairman of the Board,
Conservation International, Christoph Wolff, Managing Director,
European Climate Foundation, and H.E. Prime Minister Henry Puna of
the Cook Islands.

On the sidelines of the Assembly, Patriarch Bartholomew held talks with

important figures from the international community in a venue made
available by the Assembly organizers.

That same afternoon, the Ecumenical Patriarch was given a tour of the
National Museum of Iceland, which includes religious and cultural
artifacts dating as far back as the 10th century AD.

That evening, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Iceland Msgr. David David
Bartimej Tencer hosted a dinner in honor of Patriarch Bartholomew at his

diocese. Also attending on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church were

clergymen Patrik Breen, Jakob Rolland and Peter Vosicky, while His All-
Holiness was accompanied by Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden, the V.
Rev. Fr. Alexander Loukatos, parish priest of the Metropolitan Church of
the Annunciation in Oslo, the Rev. Archdeacon Dr. John Chryssavgis,
the Hon. Rafn Alexander Sigurdsson, Greeces Honorary Consul in
Iceland, Christos Anastasiades and Petros Bazgarlo. At the conclusion of
the gathering, symbolic gifts were exchanged.

Third Day of the Patriarchal Visit to Iceland

On Saturday morning, October 14, 2017, His All-Holiness visited the

Luthern Churchs historic spiritual/cultural center of Sklholt, which
served as one of its two initial sees in Iceland from 1056 to 1785.

Patriarch Bartholomew and his entourage were welcomed by the

Lutheran Bishop of Sklholt Kristjn Valur Inglfsson, who provided them
with a tour of the historic church and its catacombs, which house the
sarcophagus and tombs of bishops dating back to Medieval times.

Ms. Margrt Basdttir performed traditional Icelandic ecclesiastical

hymns and the former bishop of Iceland Karl Sigurbjrnsson offered a
brief historical summary of the ten centuries of spiritual service offered in

The female choir of Sklholt performed traditional Icelandic songs and

hymns, while a luncheon was subsequently offered in honor of the
Ecumenical Patriarch and his entourage, with the head of the Lutheran
Evangelical Church in Iceland Agnes M. Sigurardttir and her
associates in attendance, along with the Roman Catholic Bishop Msgr.
David Bartimej Tencer.

Following the luncheon, in a symbolic gesture of respect for the

environment, the aforementioned planted three saplings in the yard of
the historic venue.

On the way back to Reykjavik, Patriarch Bartholomew and his entourage

were given a tour of the Icelands former Parliament in Thingvalla, where
the King of Denmark signed the recognition of Icelands independence

in1907, and had an opportunity to admire the beauty of Icelands


That afternoon, His All-Holiness delivered a greeting at the seminar

organized by the Sigurbjrn Einarsson Icelandic Institute of Religion and
Reconciliation at the Safnahs Cultural Center in Reykjavik. In his
message, Patriarch Bartholomew spoke regarding the significance and
necessity of dialogue between faiths, cultures, and nations.

Immediately afterwards, Patriarch Bartholomew visited the site where the

new Church of St. Nicholas will be built by the Patriarchate of Moscow,
following an invitation by the parish priest, the Rev. Presbyter Fr. Timur
Zolotuskiy. His All-Holiness extended his wishes for a successful
completion of the construction work and offered a silver censer and
pectoral cross depicting the Holy and Great Council as a gift.

The third day of the Ecumenical Patriarchs official visit to Iceland came
to a conclusion with a dinner hosted in his honor by the Russian
Ambassador to Iceland H.E. Anton Vasiliev. During the dinner, which
was held at the Russian embassy, the Ambassador expressed his
wishes for the construction of the new Russian Church in Reykjavik to
begin soon, while His All-Holiness spoke about his relationship with the
current Patriarch of Moscow and his predecessor, as well as the trips he
has made to Russia as head of delegations and as the spiritual leader of
the worlds Orthodox Christians. The dinner concluded with a symbolic
exchange of gifts.

Forth Day of the Patriarchal Visit to Iceland

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomews paternal care for the Mother

Church of Constantinoples flock in Iceland manifested itself with His All-
Holiness presiding over the Divine Liturgy at the Hallgrims Church
(allgrmskirkja) in Reykjavik on Sunday, October 15, 2017, which was
made available courtesy of the Lutheran Church.

Some 500 persons were on hand to attend the Divine Liturgy, which was
celebrated by the V. Rev. Fr. Alexander Loukatos and the Rev.
Archdeacon Dr. John Chryssavgis. The hymns were chanted in Greek,
English, and Norwegian by the Head Chanter of the Metropolitan Church
of the Annunciation in Oslo, Mr. Panagiotis Pavlos.

In his address, Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden welcomed the

Ecumenical Patriarch to his historic first visit to Iceland and also
expressed his gratitude to all the local ecclesiastical and civic authorities
for their hospitality, cooperation, and support during the organization of
the Patriarchal visit.

The Metropolitan gave special mention to the former President of Iceland

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson for his initiative to invite Patriarch Bartholomew
as the keynote speaker of the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly.

Metropolitan Cleopas requested His All-Holiness blessings for the

establishment of a parish in Iceland, which will bear the name of the Holy
and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew, and offered the Patriarch a blessing
cross with which to bless the four corners of the world.

In his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch congratulated Metropolitan

Cleopas for the ministry he has developed during his three years of
service and for organizing this first official Patriarchal visit. He also gave
his blessing for the establishment of a parish in Iceland and offered the
Metropolitan an icon of his patron saint, Bartholomew the Apostle, as
well an engolpion (pectoral bishops medallion).

Attending the Divine Liturgy presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch

were Greek Ambassador to Norway H.E. Maria Diamanti, the head of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurardttir, Roman
Catholic Archbishop of the Fiji Islands Dr. Peter Loy Chong, Bishop
Darren McCartney of the Diocese of the Canadian Arctic, clergymen
from various Christian denominations, and representatives of Icelands
civil authorities.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Patriarch Bartholomew offered a
special blessing for the children in attendance, took photographs with
them, and attended an event in his honor put together by the Evangelic
Lutheran Church of Icelands Interdenominational Council.

Afterwards, as a token of gratitude, Metropolitan Cleopas hosted a

luncheon for His All-Holiness, the patriarchal entourage, as well as the

contributors and organizers of the events and celebrations associated

with the visit.

The final stop during the Ecumenical Patriarchs visit to Iceland was the
presidential residence of Bessastadir, where His All-Holiness was
received by the President of Iceland H.E. Guni Thorlacius
Jhannesson. During the meeting between the two leaders, which was
held in a spirit of friendship, the President hailed the initiatives of the
green Patriarch for promoting international awareness regarding the
protection of the environment, while the Patriarch spoke in brief about
the conferences and symposia that the Orthodox Churchs honorary
senior see of Constantinople has organized during his tenure. He also
requested the Presidents support for the realization of the Holy
Metropolis of Swedens vision to establish a Greek Orthodox parish in

On Sunday afternoon, His All-Holiness was accompanied to Reykjavik

Airport by Metropolitan Cleopas, the V. Rev. Fr. Loukatos, the Rev.
Presbyter Fr. Zolotuskiy, the Rev. Archdeacon Dr. Chryssavgis, the Hon.
Grunnar Palsson, Head of Protocol for the Lutheran Church of Iceland,
the leader of the Lutheran Church of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurardttir, the
Rev. Fr. Thorvaldur Vidisson, secretary to the Bishop of Iceland,
Greeces Honorary Consul in Iceland Rafn Alexander Sigurdsson and his
wife Anna Juliana Sveinsdottir, and the President of the Annunciation of
the Theotokos Hellenic Orthodox Community of Norway Mr. Panagiotis
Thoughts by Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden

Regarding the Patriarchal Visit to Iceland

It was with great emotion, unspeakable joy, and sacred reverence that
we received His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
spiritual leader and caring father to the worlds 300 million Orthodox
Christians to Iceland. The Patriarch visit was of immense historical
significance and this marks the first time that this northern land has been
visited by an ecumenical patriarch.

This auspicious event stands as a decisive moment in the spiritual life of

the local Church a missionary eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
as well as for the wonderful people of Iceland.

Patriarch Bartholomew is a voice of leadership and inspiration, and has

engaged the international community on the most important world issues
of our era, including peace, dialogue, and the preservation of the
environment, which is why he comprehends the ecumenical spirit of this
age with a broad mindset and a sense of the history that is being made.

His All-Holiness characteristically notes that having been nourished from

my youth in an atmosphere where dialogue and an open and objective
perspective on world affairs flourished especially during the patriarchy
of Athenagoras I I learned from early on in life to breath the air of
the ecumene, to recognize the sound of theological dialogue, and to
embrace the people of ecclesiastical reconciliation For us at the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, the term ecumenical is more than just a name:
it is a worldview and a way of life.

The four-day visit conducted by the Leader of Orthodoxys senior see in

Iceland operated decisively in the following directions: i) it strengthened
the unity and cooperation between Orthodox Christian brethren in
Iceland especially with the Russians, who represent the largest number
of Orthodox Christians in the nation, approaching 500, ii) it supported the
ecumenical dialogue and interdenominational relations, iii) it promoted
and publicized the immense interest and concern of the Venerable Head
of Orthodoxy regarding the ecological crisis facing the world, based on
the content of the Patriarchs address to the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly,
and iv) it attested, yet again, to the credibility and respect commanded by
the Ecumenical Patriarch internationally regarding all that was discussed
at the meetings that he held with Icelands ecclesiastical and civic
leaders, as well as with prominent figures from the international

The Patriarchs address to the Arctic Circle Assembly was more than just
a theoretical interjection, but rather, an expression of love and concern,
as well as a call for spiritual awakening and prayer regarding the future
of our planet and the victims of poverty, discrimination, and all forms of
social injustice.

In his 26 years as occupant of the see of St. Andrew the Apostle,

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has developed a theological proposal
and position according to which the Church is obliged to take a stand vis-
a-vis historical events and against serious challenges that have
appeared during this era, while at the same time remaining at the side of
our fellow men and women who suffer and are impoverished, by
denouncing all forms of exploitation.

In his official meetings with the ecclesiastical and lay leaders of Iceland,
Patriarch Bartholomew affirmed the Mother Churchs pastoral care for its
flock in Iceland and shared with them its perspective on the ecumene,
which includes the systematic effort towards Christian unity and a
common witness on behalf of justice, peace, the securing of human
rights, and respect for creation.

It is quite touching that in a country such as Iceland a northern eparchy

of the Ecumenical Patriarchate where there was not even a censor that
belonged to the Church, the Holy Metropolis of Sweden managed to
welcome the Ecumenical Patriarch and take up the courage with his
blessings to proceed with the establishment of a parish, which will bear
the name of his patron saint, the Holy and Glorious Apostle

I express my deep gratitude to His All-Holiness yet again for this great
honor, the gifts of his paternal love and care, and his continued support
towards me and this eparchy that I shepherd, as well as towards all the
clergy and laity under my jurisdiction, who contributed in manifold ways
towards the organization of this historic first Patriarchal Visit.


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