Early life and background
Bartholomew I was born in the village of Zeytinli (Greek: Άγιος Θεόδωρος, Agios Theodoros) in the island of Imbros (Greek: Ίμβρος, Imvros), son of Christos and Merope Archontónis. His secular birth name is Dimitrios Arhondonis (Δημήτριος Αρχοντώνης, Dimítrios Archontónis). He is a Turkish citizen, but he belongs (ethnically) to the historically indigenous Rum – descendants of Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantine Empire Greek community in Turkey, which today is diminished and reduced due to the Greek genocide, the subsequent population exchange of 1923 between Greece and Turkey and ultimately through the exodus of Greeks post the 1960s Cyprus conflicts.
Dimitrios Archontonis attended elementary school in his native Imvros and continued his secondary education in the famous Zographeion Lyceum in Istanbul. Soon afterwards, he studied Theology as an undergraduate at the Patriarchal Theological school or Halki seminary, from which he graduated with highest honours in 1961, and was immediately ordained deacon, receiving the name Bartholomew. Bartholomew fulfilled his military service in the Turkish army as a non regular officer between 1961 and 1963. From 1963 to 1968, Bartholomew pursued his postgraduate studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey in Switzerland and the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in Germany. His doctoral research was on the Canon Law. The same year he became a lecturer in the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
After returning to Istanbul in 1968, he took a position at the Patriarchal Theological Seminary of Halki, where he was ordained a priest in 1969, by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. When Demetrius I became Ecumenical Patriarch in 1972 and established the Patriarchal Office, he selected Bartholomew as its director. On Christmas of 1973, Bartholomew became Metropolitan of Philadelphia, and was renamed as director of the patriarchal office until his enthronement as Metropolitan of Chalcedon in 1990. From March 1974 until his enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch, he was a member of the Holy Synod as well as of many Synodical Committees.
He speaks Modern Greek, Turkish, Italian, German, French and English; he is also fluent in classical Greek and Latin.
Bartholomew I was the target of an assassination plot which was planned to take place on May 29, 2013. One suspect was arrested and there is an ongoing search for two others.
Ordinations and ecclesiastical appointments