His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s Apostolic Visit to the United States of America has been derided by some as nothing but a mere photo opportunity with prominent members of the American political class. Indeed, many times when leaders of any stripe go on such tours, it is a photo opportunity wrapped in pomp and circumstance, but this trip was no ordinary trip and the leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch, is anything but a passive bystander.
This Apostolic Visit also has a different feel than past ones, and that has everything to do with the Ecumenical Patriarch himself but also with the occupant of the White House, whom he knows personally. The latest request for the reopening of the Halki Seminary and a reflection on Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean coming from the lips of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the United States of America has a different weight to it, considering not only his title, but due also the fact that the seat of the Orthodox Christian Church and those who determine its fate happen to be in modern-day Turkey, making the issue of Turkish-Greek relations both a conceptual and deeply personal problem that is a daily worry. Both the Ecumenical Patriarch and President Biden are of the same generation, and they share liberal ideas designed to challenge and change their respective institutions that they hold in such reverence. Greeks are often dismissive and are not impressed easily, but we must recognize that we are witnessing a new high water mark in American relations with the Hellenic world.