Pope Urges Juridical Status for Church in Turkey

Reiterates Value of Religion-State Separation

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Given that Turkey is an officially secular state, Benedict XVI is urging the recognition of the Church’s juridical status in that Muslim-majority nation.

The Pope made this appeal today when he received bishops from Turkey in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

Recalling the Church’s celebration of the Pauline Jubilee Year, which marks the 2,000th anniversary of the Apostle’s birth in modern-day Turkey, the Holy Father expressed his wish that authorities will facilitate pilgrimages to the Pauline sites and the possibility to worship there and in other areas that were home to some of the earliest Christian communities.

The Pontiff noted how the small number of Christians lives in a nation that is governed by a secular Constitution but in which almost all the inhabitants are Muslims.

«Therefore, it is very important that Christians and Muslims can commit themselves together in favor of man, of life, as well as of peace and justice,» he said.

Benedict XVI affirmed that the distinction between state and religion «is certainly a value that should be protected.»

«Nevertheless in this realm,» he continued, «it corresponds to the state to effectively guarantee to all citizens and to all religious communities freedom of worship and religious liberty, as any violence against believers, whatever their religion, is unacceptable.»

The Pope assured the bishops that he is aware of their willingness and desire to dialogue with Turkish authorities «and find a solution to the various problems facing your communities, such as that of the recognition of the juridical status of the Catholic Church and its goods.»

This recognition, he contended, «would necessarily have positive consequences for everyone.»

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