Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew meets Obama on U.S. visit

bartholomewGreek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the “green patriarch” who leads 300 million Orthodox Christians, spoke with President Barack Obama on Tuesday about the fight against climate change.

“We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of disregard for the survival of God’s creation,” His All Holiness told a gathering at Georgetown University after his White House meeting. (Photo: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the White House,3 Nov 2009/Larry Downing)

Given the name “green patriarch” by former vice president and environmental crusader Al Gore, Bartholomew also will meet this week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

His meeting with Obama was private, but the White House noted afterwards that the president reaffirmed “the U.S. commitment to confronting global climate change.” It took place as the debate over climate-warming carbon emissions bubbled at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Catholics, Orthodox tackle deepest differences very slowly

One of the fascinating aspects about reporting on religion is that the timeframes are far longer than most topics news agencies cover. Experts debate the fine points of little-known issues and progress can be slower than a snail’s pace. But it’s sometimes interesting to take a look at where they’re going.

A recent meeting of the International Mixed Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in Ravenna, Italy ended with a short communique that said: “The theme of the next plenary session, the date and location of which are shortly to be decided, is: “The role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church in the first millennium.” Pope Benedict also mentioned this last week in his audience but didn’t elaborate on it.

Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul in November 2006Two participants at the talks have now fleshed that out a bit. These talks between the Vatican and the Orthodox churches, which broke from Rome and rejected the primacy or authority of the pope in the Great Schism of 1054, are now slowly getting down to discussing the crux of the problem. If Catholics and Orthodox are to achieve some kind of unity, something Pope Benedict has put high on his agenda, they have to figure out the role the pope would play.