It’s not every day that the secretary of state gets in front of the cameras with no shoes. But Mike Pompeo was touring Istanbul’s tile-bedecked Rustem Pasha Mosque, which requires visitors to leave their footwear at the door before they tread on its soft blue carpet.
He had just visited the Patriarchal Church of St. George — the global seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church — and met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in an adjacent building earlier Tuesday. He would later sit for a meeting with Archbishop Paul Russell, the Vatican’s envoy to Turkey.
These visits had a subtle but unmistakable purpose. Pompeo has staked out his advocacy for international religious freedom as one of the defining features of his time at Foggy Bottom — a mission that he took to Istanbul, on the latest leg of a post-election, multi-country tour.