Pope modeled peace, unity during trip to Turkey

| January 15, 2015

NienstedtBlWhile most of us were warming up leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, Pope Francis was off to Turkey for one of the most significant apostolic visits of his pontificate to date.

The purpose of the visit was twofold: 1) to plead for peace in the area that has been marked with war and violence; 2) to renew his quest for Church unity with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.

Meeting with civil authorities at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, the Holy Father recalled how important their land is for Christians since it was the birth place of St. Paul, the foundational site of various early Christian communities and the host of the first seven Councils of the Church. He spoke of how he was following in the footsteps of his predecessors Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He also recalled how St. John XXIII has served as Apostolic Delegate there before becoming pope.

Having these experiences in common, the Holy Father called for much needed dialogue aimed at furthering mutual understanding. Yet, he pointed out, the Middle East has for too long been a theatre for fratricidal wars that have only resulted in increased violence and given way to new wars. This situation can be changed for the better with God’s help and with the courage to negotiate for a lasting peace. Fanaticism and fundamentalism, the pope said, must be countered with the solidarity of all believers, based on three pillars: 1) respect for human life and religious freedom; 2) a commitment to ensure a dignified life for every person; and 3) care for the natural environment. Such solidarity would direct resources not to weaponry and military might but to the more noble battles against hunger and sickness, protection of the environment and relieving the many forms of poverty that exist. The pope thanked the people and the government of Turkey for welcoming so many refugees, especially from Syria and Iraq, and called on the international community to assist Turkey in taking care of those refugees.

Of no less importance was Pope Francis’ signing a common declaration with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to pursue together the journey toward restoring full communion as well as the liturgical celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.

The pope noted that it had been 50 years since Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem, ushering in a serious dialogue between the two churches on the path to reconciliation. Both churches, the pope acknowledged, need to preserve and support not only one another’s liturgical and spiritual traditions, but also their canonical disciplines. He further stated that full communion cannot signify the submission of one to the other or the assimilation of one into the other. Rather, what must be of utmost concern is a “fraternal love which expresses the spiritual and transcendent bond which unites us as disciples of the Lord.”

The voices that are calling the two Churches to live this discipleship fully, the pontiff added, comes from the poor who suffer from a globalization of indifference, the victims of conflict whose peace is taken from them by acts of violence, and the young who live without hope from a lack of witness to the true humanism that comes from the Gospel and from the Church’s age-old experience.

Acknowledging the deep desire of the pope and patriarch for greater mutual accord ought to encourage all of us in our prayer and in our dialogue as we approach our annual celebration of the Church Unity Octave, Jan. 18-25.

Perhaps the most lasting image from his visit was Pope Francis placing his head on the shoulder of Patriarch Bartholomew asking for a blessing for himself and the Church in Rome. For me, this symbolized the good will that exists among brothers who, despite the serious obstacles that lie in their way, desire to fulfill the hope of Jesus that “all may be one.”

May that same desire be in us as we observe the Church Unity Octave!

God bless you!


El Papa modela paz y unión durante su viaje a Turquía

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Category: Only Jesus

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