BERIL – The pope’s visit to Turkey

The pope’s visit to TurkeyPope Francisand#39 visit to Turkey has been an important event, maybe even a little bit more than all the other papal visits to different countries around the world. Every detail of this three-day trip has been designed to contribute to global peace, dialogue and friendship between different cultures.

Some of these details will have profound social impacts, while some others will have political outcomes.The first important aspect of the visit was promoting friendly relations between Muslims and Christians.

It was quite significant that the pope expressed his personal views on radical groups and terrorists, saying that Islam, as a religion, should not be blamed for their actions. Pope Francis emphasized the need to combat prejudice and said that no terrorist organization should be associated with religion.

He reminded us that it is not correct to use the word andquotMuslimandquot to describe specific terrorist organizations. He apparently wanted to say that there may be people who call themselves the andquotIslamic State,andquot but in fact they have nothing to do with Islam This message has been particularly appreciated by ordinary Muslims.

The popeand#39s prayer in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul was a magnificent moment to prove that dialogue and understanding between religions can indeed exist. However, unilateral symbolic gestures are not enough to improve dialogue in exchange, it would be meaningful if a Muslim political and religious leader did the same and visited a cathedral.

People around the world need to be frequently reminded that different faith groups must respect each other and that religions have much more in common than most people think.The popeand#39s visit has been a reminder to the people of Turkey about an often neglected aspect of their country: the existence of Christian communities and their condition.

The visit has been an opportunity to recall that Turkish citizens of Greek, Armenian or Assyrian descent must enjoy equal rights. Besides these local communities, there are other Christians who have come to Turkey recently as refugees and the pope underlined that they should not be considered andquotothersandquot just because of their religion.

Pope Francisand#39 visit has been a crucial opportunity to improve the dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Christians as well. These two churches have been working for some time, especially since mutual excommunications were lifted, to build a healthy cooperation.

We witnessed during this visit that the spiritual leaders of the two churches are determined to pursue the dialogue. We know, however, that the entire Orthodox world does not believe in this dialogue and criticizes Patriarch Bartholomew on the matter In fact, the message conveyed by the two heads of church was disturbing particularly for the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Since the wars in Georgia and Ukraine, Russia fears a renewed containment policy and the rapprochement between the two churches may be considered a new step in that direction. It was quite an interesting coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin was on his way to Turkey just as Pope Francis was wrapping up his visit.

During the visit the third major monotheistic religion, Judaism, was not forgotten. In fact, in order to get a real andquotdialogue between civilizations,andquot Jews must take an active part in it.

Unfortunately, the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the crisis around the al-Aqsa Mosque, does not help.Finally, we must affirm that Pope Francis has been particularly appreciated by ordinary Turks because of his warmth, modesty and attentive words.

He preferred to travel in quite a modest car and would probably prefer to walk among the people if there were no security risks. In brief, it has been a remarkable visit indeed.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman