March 15 2007
Children are part of paradise
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I thanks SOS Children's Villages
15/03/2007 - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I visited SOS Children's Village Wienerwald in Austria on 14 March and made a spontaneous donation of USD 5,000. The Patriarch of Constantinople handed out little crosses to the children and after a tour of the SOS Children's Village, Bartholomew I sat down for a snack with the children of an SOS family.
The children thanked him by giving him candles that they had made or decorated themselves and singing for him. Bartholomew I's great charisma meant that there was a special atmosphere. "Why do I love children so much? Because I see part of paradise in children's eyes", explained Bartholomew I. He gave a speech praising SOS Children's Villages around the world, which originated in Austria. He said they were "centres of charity" and the blessing that they gave could not be overestimated.
The Patriarch recalled the "father of SOS Children's Villages", Hermann Gmeiner. He said that it was to a great extent due to Hermann Gmeiner that the idea of SOS Children's Villages was able to take hold across the world. He had been driven by the belief that "everyone, all the children in the world belong to the same father in heaven - irrespective of their cultural or religious background". The Ecumenical Patriarch thanked SOS Children's Villages for the fact that many Orthodox children and young people were able to practise their Orthodox belief and deepen it in SOS Children's Villages across the world.
The president of the SOS Children's Village Wienerwald association, publicist Heinz Nußbaumer, thanked Bartholomew I for being so willing to come "from the world of adults and influential people" to the SOS Children's Village and in doing so, into the "world of the small and helpless". SOS Children's Village Wienerwald is the largest of around 100 similar facilities in Europe. In 2007, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Knowledge about the value of religion in people's lives is also alive at SOS Children's Villages, as Mr Nußbaumer said: "SOS Children's Villages are places of religious peace, where people live together in harmony - in the world's great areas of conflict as well."
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I is the "first among equals" (primus inter pares) of all bishops of the Orthodox Church around the world. Today's representative of a Byzantine tradition that stretches over back hundreds of years of history, the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose seat is Phanar in Istanbul, is highly respected by 300 million Orthodox Christians across the world and is seen as being a moral and spiritual authority. He is the most charismatic representative of Orthodoxy in our times.