In New York City a couple of days ago, John McCain called on Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios, and got a bit more Balkan religious politics than he bargained for. As reported by Newsweek‘s Erik German:
While McCain was posing with Archbishop Demetrios, a reporter with a Greek-language media outlet fired a question at the senator, asking why he did not sign a letter a year and a half ago in which 73 other senators — including Obama — urged President George W. Bush to publicly support religious freedom for a Greek Orthodox minority living in Istanbul, Turkey.
McCain declined to answer directly, saying the matter was under discussion. “Obviously we are in favor of religious freedom all over the world, especially those places where it seems to be about to disappear,” he said, before declining further questions.
Here’s some video provided by Ethics and Religion Newsweekly, which has McCain saying something slightly different, i.e.: “We are in favor of religious freedom all over the world. Especially those places where there seems to be challenges to it, and we’ll continue our dialogue and discussions at hand, try to do what we can to see that all religions are honored and protected.”
In any event, McCain looks like he’d much rather be, say, chatting with Imus, or chewing on a lemon, or anything else. The fact is, the Turks have made life pretty miserable for Demetrios’ boss Bartholomew, patriarch of Constantinople. And yet Turkish good will is important, not to be squandered by standing up for the Orthodox of Istanbul or mentioning that pesky Armenian genocide. Religion is such a pain.