(Photo: White House / Pete Souza)
The spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians met with President Obama on Tuesday and raised the issue of climate change, following up on a conversation they had engaged in during the president’s visit to Turkey.
“The President with his kindness and openness received me and my delegation with love and honor,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the press as he was exiting the White House.
During the more than half an hour meeting, Bartholomew talked about climate change and commended the president for his initiatives, urging him for an even more intensive campaign on behalf of ecological responsibility.
Obama, in return, thanked the Orthodox leader for his moral and ethical leadership for all the world’s faith communities in responding to environmental concerns.
Bartholomew, known to many as the “green patriarch,” has gained a reputation as a prominent environmentalist, putting the support of the patriarchate behind various international environmental causes.
In a speech delivered later that day at Georgetown University, Bartholomew said each "crime against the natural world" is a sin and that people must ask God to forgive them for causing harm to His creation.
“For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation… for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands… for humans to injure other humans with disease… for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances… these are sins,” he stated.
Near the close of Bartholomew's meeting with the president, Obama reportedly stressed his appreciation for the unique role of the Ecumenical Patriarch as the leader of the Orthodox Christian world, and the unique character of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as an institution.
Bartholomew, in closing, assured Obama of his prayers for his health care initiatives for the sake of the poor and needy.
On Thursday, Bartholomew was expected to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and attend a dinner in his honor later that evening at the State Department.
Bartholomew’s visit to the United States concludes in Washington on Nov. 6. Prior to Washington, Bartholomew stopped by New York, Atlanta, and New Orleans.