Pope Francis gave a 45 minute press conference aboard his plane as he was returning from his Apostolic Visit to Turkey.
During the conference, the Holy Father answered a wide range of questions that dealt which such topics as relations with Muslims, ecumenism, the issue of primacy, and the recent Synod on the Family.
Regarding the plight of both Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, the Holy Father first addressed the issue of Islamophobia that has spread due to the actions of terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State.
“I can understand this. And I sincerely believe that we cannot say all Muslims are terrorists, just as we cannot say that all Christians are fundamentalists – we also have fundamentalists among us, all religions have these little groups,” he said.
The Pope said that during his meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, he suggested that a clear condemnation from all religious and political leaders, as well as scholars, clerics and intellectuals should be done.
“There needs to be an international condemnation from Muslims across the world. It needs to say, ‘No, this is not what the Quran is about!’ There should also always be a distinction between what a religion proposes and the concrete use of that proposal by a concrete government,” he said.
The Holy Father also spoke out against violence against Christians. “I don’t want to use sugarcoated words: we Christians are being chased from the Middle East,” he said citing the persecution of Christians in Mosul as an example.
Ecumenism & The Issue of Primacy
On the second day of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis visited the famed Blue Mosque in Istanbul where he prayed for 2 minutes alongside the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran. The Holy Father said that at that moment he felt the need to pray.
“I prayed for Turkey, for peace, for the Mufti, for everyone and for myself,” the Pope told the journalists. “I said: ‘Lord, let’s put an end to these wars!’ It was a moment of sincere prayer.”
Regarding ecumenism and the unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Holy Father said that relations with the Orthodox Church are moving forward. However, he said, “if we wait for theologians to reach an agreement, that day will never come!”
The Pope said that there is not only a spiritual ecumenism, but also “an ecumenism of the blood”, meaning, Christians who are martyred today. “Our martyrs are crying out: we are one. This is what ecumenism of the blood is,” he said. “We must follow this path courageously and carry on moving forward.”
The Pope also expressed his hope of meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, but given the current situation with the war in Ukraine and other issues, it is currently not possible. But the Pope said that both he and the Patriarch “want to meet and move forward.”
Regarding the issue of primacy, the Holy Father said that it was evidenced during yesterday’s Divine Liturgy that the Orthodox accepts the primacy. The Pope said that the only way forward is to follow St. John Paul II’s request for unity. He also addressed those who are not favorable to a union between the Churches, saying that while “problems do exist”, “we must be respectful and not tire of engaging in dialogue.”
The World and the Synod
Pope Francis expressed his desire to visit Iraq, but given the current situation it would create a security issue for the government. Before departing for Rome, the Pope met briefly with refugees. While expressing his desire to meet at a refugee camp, the 77 year old Pontiff said that schedule limitations made it impossible at the moment. He also praised the Turkish government for their generosity in taking in refugees.
Finally, regarding the recent Synod of Bishops and the often discussed the final report, the Pope said that the Synod is not a Parliament, but “a protected space in which the Holy Spirit may speak.”
“We cannot just take the opinion of one person or one draft document,” he said. “Personally, I disagree with someone publicly saying this person said this. Only what was actually said should be made public, and this is what happened: the Synod is not a Parliament. There is a need for protection in order for the Holy Spirit to speak.”
After his press briefing, the Pope took a moment to greet each of the journalists on board the flight.