Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Obama and Halki

It is my policy not to comment on political matters on this web log, but I could not help but take notice of President Barack Obama's remarks on the question of reopening the Orthodox seminary on Halki (pictured). On April 6, 2009, addressing Turkey's Grand National Assembly, President Obama said:
The United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union... [but] Turkey has its own responsibilities [...] Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening the Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond.
Yesterday, on Tuesday, April 7, the President met with His Holiness, Patriarch Bartholemew of Constantinople. Here is how, in my translation (from the French), reported on this meeting:
The Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, met yesterday for fifteen minutes withUnited States President Barack Obama in the Conrad Hotel in Istanbul. According to Patriarch Bartholomew, the meeting took place in a "very good climate" and characterized the U.S. President as "simple and noble." The Patriarch also thanked Barack Obama for supporting the reopening the seminary on Halki in his speech to the Turkish Parliament on Monday, stressing that this reopening is a key issue for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and not simply a question of prestige. Similarly, the Ecumenical Patriarch stressed his support for the entry of Turkey into the European Union.
F0r more (in Greek), see here. For my own comments on the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, see here.

UPDATE: more on the meeting here.


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

From someone very well-informed, I learned that the President had originally intended to meet the Patriarch at the Patriarchate, which would have been a very bold statement in itself, but Turkish pressure changed his plans. He also spoke about "the Armenian problem" and "religious minorities." Perhaps not too bold, but not too timid, either.

James the Thickheaded said...

Thank you for posting this and Kevin for the comment. Fills out an under-reported story here. Also thanks to your link to the earlier WSJ story... which I read... 'cause I read the story at the time and scratched my head as well. There unfortunate tendency of assigning writers to a task is that the boss sometimes doesn't understand the author's hostility to the subject. Journalism has declined everywhere... and fact checkers were riffed years ago (when that was a current term). We are poorer for it.

John said...

Thanks for the post. I find it significant that President Obama did not speak in just vague generalities, but actually said the words "Halki Seminary" in his address to the Turkish Assembly.