Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Monday met separately with US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
President Biden and Bartholomew discussed ways to tackle climate change and end the coronavirus pandemic during the Oval Office meeting, and the importance of religious freedom.
The White House said the meeting between Bartholomew and Biden “highlighted the critical role that religious communities play in confronting a range of global challenges that we all face.”
Bartholomew said at the White House that he was very pleased with his visit, praising Biden as “a man of faith and foresight.”
“We cannot allow any short-sighted political plans to interfere with our relationship, which takes place through Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of the world,” the Turkish official said.
While Bartholomew’s visit was expected to draw attention to the plight of the small Orthodox Christian minority in his homeland of Turkey, he took a diplomatic tone at an earlier breakfast meeting hosted by Turkish Ambassador Hassan Murat Merkan, according to remarks published by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Bartholomew said that his mission as patriarch “is purely spiritual and demonstrates how Turkey can be not only an inclusive society, but also a bridge between East and West.” He described the ambassador’s reception as an example of mutual “dialogue and respect.”
The comments did not address current painful moments, such as the Turkish government’s closure of an Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Halki 50 years ago.
Blinken, however, “confirmed that opening a seminary in Halki remains an ongoing priority,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price. “They discussed the US commitment to supporting religious freedom worldwide and the opportunity to work with the Orthodox Christian community around the world on issues of common interest, as well as with religious minorities in Turkey and the region,” Price said.
Blinken praised the “outstanding leadership” of Bartholomew, sometimes referred to as the “green patriarch,” who called for solutions to the climate crisis.
Bartholomew also said Monday that he will join Pope Francis and leaders of other major religions around the world to urge the global community to make it easier to vaccinate with COVID-19, especially for poor countries.
Bartholomew was discharged from the Washington hospital on Monday morning, after a night in the hospital. He was rushed to George Washington University Hospital Sunday night after feeling “unwell” due to Saturday’s long flight and busy schedule of activities, according to the Greek Orthodox Diocese.
Bartholomew is the patriarch of Constantinople living in Turkey. He considers himself the first among the Orthodox patriarchs, which gives him fame, but does not give him power, like the Catholic Pope.
He oversees part of the Greek Orthodox community and some other jurisdictions, for example, the recently created, contrary to the opinion of the Russian Orthodox Church, the so-called. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine, although much of the Eastern Orthodox world is self-governed by its own patriarchs.