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Secretary of State Clinton meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, calls for immediate opening of Halki Seminary
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Saturday, July 16 at the Phanar during her visit to Istanbul. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew warmly received Secretary Clinton who initiated a serious hour-long discussion on various issues, including the reopening of the Orthodox Theological School of Halki.
"40 years of 'silence' are enough for the School" Clinton reportedly told media. She reiterated the commitment of the United States on the issue of religious freedom and expressed her support to the concerns of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Secretary of State Clinton also referred to other activities and initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch, referencing His All-Holiness as the "Green Patriarch" -- an epithet bestowed on him for his tireless leadership and pioneering work in raising environmental awareness and underlining spiritual values in addressing the ecological crisis.
Clinton highlighted the interreligious dialogue initiated by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1994 at the Bosphorus Meeting and the Declaration signed, as well as the continuation of the dialogue in 2001 in Brussels immediately after the terrorist attack of September 11.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referred to recent positive steps by the Erdogan government to remove barriers that had historically accumulated, limiting the action of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He thanked the U.S. for its "continuous and undiminished 'interest in the issues of the Orthodox Church."
Finally, the Secretary conveyed the gratitude of President Barack Obama for the supportive letter by His All-Holiness to the President regarding the administration's initiatives pertaining to climate change.
Hillary Clinton was accompanied by Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Francis Ricciardone, United States Ambassador to Turkey; Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe, National Security Council; Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom and Scott Kilner, United States Consul General. The Secretary of State and diplomats were greeted by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, who was present for the private meeting, and were escorted by His Eminence into the Patriarchal Church of Saint George where they lit candles.
This was the third visit of Hillary Clinton to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The first took place in 1996 as First Lady, with her daughter Chelsea. The second visit occurred in 1999, again as First Lady, when she accompanied her husband, former President Bill Clinton.