Why would Vice President Joe Biden, during his crucial, ISIS focused, trip to Turkey, meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew? Part of the answer lies in Vice President Biden describing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as "one of the two most Christ-like people I have ever met." World-renowned journalist Charlie Rose said of Bartholomew, "There is no interview that I would place higher than the conversation I had with The Ecumenical Patriarch."
Another part of the answer lays in the fact that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the second-largest Christian Church in the world, is headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey. This ancient Christian Orthodox Sea, established by the Apostle Andrew, is located in the sixth largest Muslim country in the world. In many ways, he has bridged these two great world faiths.
Bartholomew's importance as a world peacemaker has been further enhanced recently due to his relationship with the also highly regarded Pope Francis. Bartholomew became the first Ecumenical Patriarch in history to attend a Papal inauguration. That was followed by an historic meeting in Jerusalem earlier this year and co-celebration at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus Christ was laid to rest. There they prayed together, later met and issued a joint declaration. Journalist Rose went to great lengths to be with the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch in Jerusalem because he said, "It is their imperative to make this world a better place for all."
They have been described to be like brothers. This is appropriate because they are, after all, the direct successors of the brother Disciples of Jesus Christ -- Peter and Andrew. Peter founded today's largest Christian Church -- the Catholic Church -- in Rome. His brother Andrew founded today's second largest Christian Church -- Christian Orthodoxy -- in Constantinople, today's Istanbul, Turkey. The Pope is Peter's 266th direct successor and The Ecumenical Patriarch is Andrew's 269th.
These two Church leaders and world peacemakers met at the Vatican earlier this year with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, where they prayed for peace. This meeting came less than two weeks after the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch each met with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Israel.
Next weekend Pope Francis will visit Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Even the contentious and dramatically divided Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate came together for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and his mission. All ten Democrats and all eight Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee showed rare unanimity as joint signers of a letter to President Barack Obama seeking full religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarch.
My short answer to the question why Vice President Joe Biden would meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follows. This is a globally disturbing historic moment when misguided Muslim extremists are murdering untold numbers of Christians, Muslims and anyone else they encounter and pitting the faiths against each other. It is at such moments that the world's peacemakers, like Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, are needed more than ever.
Unbeknown to most people, Vice President Biden is particularly qualified to bring such people into the picture. His personal library contains more books on the subject of comparative religion than any other subject. And for decades, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Vice President, he has met with virtually all the world's top leaders, religious and otherwise. His decision to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during this high level trip to Turkey will benefit Christians, Muslims and us all in America and around the world.
Anthony Limberakis is National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew -- Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.