Dealing with the climate crisis, promoting religious freedom around the world, and effective and socially equitable management of the pandemic were some of the topics on the agenda of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s meetings with US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The meetings took place in a very good atmosphere, while as church circles underlined, they were not ceremonial contacts, as the two meetings took place with enlarged delegations and with the participation of senior officials of the White House and the State Department.

Situation in Turkey and pressure on the Halki Theological School

From the side of the patriarchal delegation, it was stressed that the current situation with the Theological School of Halki can not continue. As it was underlined, Turkey is trying to put the issue on the basis of reciprocity with Greece and is asking for unreasonable trade-offs, which of course cannot be accepted by Athens. In this light, the patriarchal mission requested that the issue of the Halki Theological School be removed from the agenda of Greek-Turkish relations. For this reason, they called on the United States to upgrade the issue politically and take an additional step that goes beyond the level of rhetoric. As has been characteristically said, Washington must change its tactics, as its policy has not yielded any results for Halki. As for the situation in Turkey, Joe Biden expressed the feeling that President Erdogan is particularly cramped, as his country’s economy is in dire straits, and appeared curious about how he would react from now on.

Interreligious Dialogue

The Ecumenical Patriarch knows that the American president is a faithful Catholic. Therefore, he conveyed to him the wishes and heartfelt greetings from Pope Francis, with whom he had met a week ago. In addition, he emphasized the importance of interfaith dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. In light of this, he presented to the American president the initiative taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate together with the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches to provide vaccines to third world countries that cannot afford them. Mr Biden showed particular interest, commenting that it was a move that was both morally and practically correct.

Autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

According to ecclesiastical circles, the systematic moves made by the Moscow Patriarchate against the Ecumenical Patriarchate were discussed at the meetings. The specific actions taken under the pretext of providing self-determination to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are contrary to ecclesiastical regularity and undermine the unity of Orthodoxy. As it was said, during the discussion it was found that there is dissatisfaction in the American factor for the non-constructive role played by Russia.

After the meetings at the White House and the State Department, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his satisfaction, saying that President Biden is a man of faith and vision. “We can not allow any short-sighted political agenda to interfere in our relations, which take place through and within Christ Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the world,” he said.

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