On day one of his apostolic trip to Turkey today, the Pope called on religious leaders to do what’s expected of them.
Addressing religious leaders in Ankara this afternoon on this first day of his three-day visit to the primarily Muslim nation of Turkey, the Pope said, “The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.”
Not only this, but as religious leaders, “we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights,” he said.
“Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace.”
More than just denounce violations, he stressed, religious leaders must work together to find adequate solutions. This, he added, requires the cooperation of all: governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of good will.
The Holy Father explained that good relations and dialogue between religious leaders have, in fact, acquired great importance, for they represent a clear message addressed to their respective communities, which “demonstrates that mutual respect and friendship are possible, notwithstanding differences.”
“Such friendship,” he said,“becomes all the more meaningful and important in a time of crises such as our own, crises which in some parts of the world are disastrous for entire peoples.”
Wars, he went on to describe, cause deaths of innocent victims and bring untold destruction, interethnic and interreligious tensions and conflicts, hunger and poverty afflicting hundreds of millions of people, and inflict damage on the natural environment, including air, water and land.
The situation in the Middle East is especially tragic, above all in Iraq and Syria, Francis decried.
“Everyone suffers the consequences of these conflicts, and the humanitarian situation is unbearable,” he said. “I think of so many children, the sufferings of so many mothers, of the elderly, of those displaced and of all refugees, subject to every form of violence.”
Simply because of ethnic and religious identity, the Pope said, “particular concern arises” becuase entire communities, “especially – though not exclusively – Christians and Yazidis, have suffered and continue to suffer barbaric violence” primarily by an extremist and fundamentalist group.
Turning to what can be learned from this, he said that “in a unique way,” religious leaders can offer a vital contribution by expressing the values of their respective traditions, for “we, Muslims and Christians, are the bearers of spiritual treasures of inestimable worth.”
Recognizing and developing our common spiritual heritage through interreligious dialogue, he noted, helps us to promote and to uphold moral values, peace and freedom in society.
“The shared recognition of the sanctity of each human life,” the Holy Father underscored, “is the basis of joint initiatives of solidarity, compassion, and effective help directed to those who suffer most.”
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full Translation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-address-to-the-president-of-religious-affairs-in-ankara