By Dildar Baykan Atalay and Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) - Istanbul's Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew met with senior officials including President Joe Biden during his 12-day visit to the US.
Biden and Bartholomew “discussed efforts to confront climate change, steps to end the global COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of religious freedom as a fundamental human right,” according to a statement from the White House.
“Their meeting underscored the critical role that faith communities play in confronting the range of global challenges we all face, as well as the decades-long friendship and partnership” between Biden and the Patriarch.
Speaking to the press following a closed-door meeting with Biden, Bartholomew expressed “abundant satisfaction” with the meeting.
“And finally I would like to announce to you that, together with His Holiness the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Communion and Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, we shall make an appeal to the whole world to facilitate the vaccination of everybody, especially poor people,” he said.
“The president accepted our common initiative with great satisfaction.”
Earlier, Bartholomew also met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The United States stands strongly for the principle of religious freedom, and we stand for that in our foreign policy, and of course we stand for that in our own country. His All-Holiness’s church extends across the globe and here in the United States,” Blinken told reporters ahead of the meeting.
For his part, Bartholomew said: “We are grateful to the American administration, the administration of the United States, for the continuous support for the Ecumenical Throne and its ideas and values which we try to protect, struggling at the same time to survive in our historic seat in Istanbul.”
Following the meeting, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that 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.”
“Secretary Blinken reaffirmed that the reopening of the Halki Seminary remains a continued priority for the Biden Administration. They also discussed the imperative of urgently addressing the climate crisis,” the statement added.
Bartholomew arrived in the US on Saturday on a 12-day visit that included a meeting with President Biden.
He had been hospitalized in the US capital Washington, D.C.
The patriarch was due to attend a church service in Washington but felt unwell after the long flight and his busy schedule since reaching the US capital, the Greece-based AMNA news agency reported Sunday.
Bartholomew, 81, was taken to George Washington University Hospital and was advised to rest, the press office of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said on Twitter.