Patriarch Bartholomew met President Obama

President of USA B. Obama held a separate meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, whose international role as the spiritual leader of hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians worldwide is not recognized by Ankara.

Bartholomew, following the meeting, sounded optimist regarding the problems the patriarchate faces, particularly in reopening Halki Seminary.

"The Ecumenical Patriarchate is much more optimistic both on the Halki Theological Seminary and on the problems we face more generally," Bartholomew was quoted as saying by the Athens news agency, following a 15-minute on-camera meeting with Obama, which was also attended by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios of America.

He thanked Obama "for all that he said concerning Halki yesterday [Monday] from the podium of the Turkish Grand National Assembly," and added that the patriarchate "is required to renew its officials and fulfill its lofty mission with the dialogues with the other Christian churches, the dialogue we have commenced in the last 20 years with the other monotheistic religions." He is the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.

Ankara rejects Bartholomew's use of the title "ecumenical," or universal, arguing instead that the patriarch is merely the spiritual leader of İstanbul's dwindling Orthodox community.

The Fener Greek Patriarchate in İstanbul dates back to the 1,100-year-old Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, modern-day İstanbul, in 1453.

Turkey has also resisted European Union pressure to reopen Halki Seminary on the island of Heybeliada near İstanbul, which was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control. The theological school once trained generations of Greek Orthodox leaders, including the current patriarch. The seminary remained open until 1985, when the last five students graduated. An ethnic Greek who is a citizen of Turkey, Bartholomew says the Orthodox community could soon die out in Turkey if the seminary is not reopened.