Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, said he was satisfied with his meeting with Joe Biden on October 25, praising the U.S. president as a “man of faith, and man of vision.”
Bartholomew, 81, met with Biden at the White House after resuming his scheduled visit following an overnight stay in a Washington hospital.
“We cannot allow any short-sighted political agendas to interfere with our relationships, that are through, and in Christ Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the world,” Bartholomew said after his visit with Biden.
Bartholomew visited the White House after being released from George Washington University Hospital, where he had been admitted on October 24 after he felt “unwell” due to the long flight the previous day and the busy schedule of events upon arrival, according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said earlier on Twitter that Bartholomew was feeling well after being discharged from the hospital and was ready to continue his official visit.
Before visiting the White House, Bartholomew held a breakfast meeting hosted by Turkish Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan, according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Bartholomew said his mission as patriarch “is purely spiritual and demonstrates how Turkey can be — not only an inclusive society, but a bridge-builder between East and West.” He called the ambassador’s welcome an example of mutual “dialogue and respect.”
The patriarch met later with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department, raising “concerns about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and Northern Africa” and expressing his hope for stability and religious freedom in the region.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken raised the Turkish government’s closure of an Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Halki 50 years ago and reaffirmed that its reopening “remains a continued priority.”
Price said Blinken and Bartholomew “discussed the U.S. commitment to supporting religious freedom around the world and opportunities to work with the Orthodox Christian community worldwide on issues of shared concern, as well as with religious minorities in Turkey and the region.”
Blinken also praised the “remarkable leadership” Bartholomew has shown in calling for solutions to the climate crisis.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is considered first among equals among Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, which gives him prominence. He directly oversees Greek Orthodox Christians and some other jurisdictions, although large portions of the Eastern Orthodox world are self-governing under their own leaders.
His visit to the United States is to continue until November 3.
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