WASHINGTON — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said he had “a warm and productive meeting” with President Joe Biden at the White House Oct. 25 but that their discussion also involved a shared sense of urgency about the world’s climate crisis.
“In the course of our conversation, we touched on many issues that pertain to the peace of the world and the hope for increased environmental justice on this single planet that we all share,” the patriarch said in a statement he released after the meeting. “We note with appreciation the president’s commitment to environmental responsibility and his willingness to lead the way.”
“We have supported these efforts for the entirety of our 30-year patriarchy, and we shall continue to do so,” added the 81-year-old patriarch, who is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his election this year.
Patriarch Bartholomew said he expressed “our concerns for global stability” and the role that “constructive and positive religious movements can bring” to such stability.
“Our efforts for promoting Christian unity and interfaith understanding and cooperation have but one principle — dialogue. We consider dialogue as the most effective means to address any challenge of the present or the future,” he added.
A White House statement issued after the two leaders met said Biden congratulated the patriarch on his 30 years “of moral and spiritual leadership.”
“They 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,” the White House said. “Their meeting underscored the critical role that faith communities play in confronting the range of global challenges we all face, as well as (their) decadeslong friendship and partnership.”
The same day, Patriarch Bartholomew also met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department. It was his first meeting in person with the United States’ chief diplomat.
According to a news release from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the patriarch informed Blinken about issues of concern to Orthodox Christians in the United States and throughout the world and the efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “to promote interreligious dialogue and environmental awareness.”
Later in the day, Patriarch Bartholomew and those in his delegation were guests at an ecumenical reception on Capitol Hill sponsored by the National Council of Churches.
“The future of the ecumenical movement resides in ‘the dialogue of love’ through the creation of new symbols and common actions,” he told those gathered at the reception. “We need to open our hearts to the language of dialogue. This is the ultimate condition for the restoration of unity among Christians.
“Unity is a task that remains difficult to fulfill,” he added. “But the bonds of friendship among divided Churches and the bridges by which we can overcome our divisions are indispensable, now more than ever. Love is essential, so that dialogue between our Churches can occur in all freedom and trust.”
Pope-Biden meeting seen as a chance to address shared global concerns
President Joe Biden’s upcoming audience with Pope Francis presents an opportunity for the pontiff to inspire the U.S. leader to work more diligently to advance solutions on shared concerns such as climate change, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, stifling poverty and conflict in vulnerable countries, a Catholic Relief Services executive said.
“You have the two loudest microphones in the international community” coming together, Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy for CRS, said of the Oct. 29 meeting at the Vatican.
“The Holy Father, with his profound leadership, can help move the United States, inspire the administration, to do more on those critical issues and to work together even where there are obvious differences between the Church and the Biden administration. The opportunity to work together on these critical global issues is really central to progress on them,” he said.
Biden plans to meet Pope Francis the day before he joins the two-day summit of G-20 leaders in Rome. The two previously met in 2016.