Pope Discusses Aims for Interreligious, Ecumenical Dialogue in Turkey

Prays for ‘Peaceful Coexistence’ Between Different Religions, Cultures in Majority Muslim Nation

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Reflecting on his three-day apostolic visit to Turkey that concluded Sunday, Pope Francis affirmed his commitment to restore full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Speaking to the thousands gathered for this morning’s weekly General Audience in a rainy St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father spoke on his visit to Turkey, on Nov. 28-30, and the steps taken in advancing interreligious and ecumenical dialogue.

For the second week in a row, the Argentine Pontiff told those gathered that they were ‘brave’ for coming out in the bad weather. He also mentioned that he had come from the Paul VI Hall where he had met with the sick just before the audience.

Acknowledging Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation, he stressed the important role of religion in Turkish people’s lives. The Holy Father prayed this weekend’s visit would bear “fruits of dialogue in our relations” with Orthodox and Muslims, and works toward “the path to peace between peoples.”

At the same time, he reminded those gathered of Turkey’s rich Christian history. 

During his visit, the Holy Father visited Ankara, the nation’s capital, and Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.

When visiting Ankara, Francis said, he had two goals: underscoring how important it is for people to exercise religious belief freely and promoting good relations with Muslims.

“I insisted on the importance that Christians and Muslims working together for solidarity, peace and justice, stating each state must assure citizens and religious communities real freedom of worship.”

Reflecting on the Mass in Istanbul, the Pope noted how the Catholic faithful and the leaders of Turkey’s Christian communities called on the Holy Spirit “to guide and help our efforts to grow in unity.”

“Together we invoked the Holy Spirit,” he said, “the One who makes the Church’s unity: unity in faith, unity in charity, unity in the inner cohesion. The People of God, in the richness of its traditions, is called to be guided by the Holy Spirit, in a constant attitude of openness, docility and obedience.”

Another important moment for ecumenical dialogue, the Pope said, was during the Divine Liturgy Sunday for the feast of Saint Andrew, when he and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew both signed a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment to restoring full communion. 

Recalling their prayers together, he pointed out, “Prayer is the basis for any fruitful ecumenical dialogue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

He also commented on one of the stops he added on the last day, namely visiting refugees. He stated, “It was very important for me to meet some refugees from the war zones of the Middle East, both to express my closeness and that of the Church, and to emphasize the value of hospitality,” which he noted is a strength of Turkish culture.

The Holy Father concluded, praying that God “continue to protect the Turkish people, its leaders and representatives of different religions” and “help build together a future of peace, so that Turkey can be a place of peaceful coexistence between different religions and cultures.”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Common Declaration: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/text-of-joint-declaration-signed-by-pope-and-ecumenical-patriarch

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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