Pope Benedict XVI held his Dec. 6
general audience in two locations. He met first with pilgrims from around
He concluded his reflections on the trip by
calling upon the Lord to help
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As it is now the custom after each
apostolic trip, I would like to review the various stages of the pilgrimage I
First of all, I feel obliged to
express once again my sincere gratitude to the president of the republic, to
the prime minister, and to the other authorities, who welcomed me with so much
courtesy and ensured the necessary conditions so that everything might take
place in the best conditions. I offer my fraternal gratitude to the bishops of
the Catholic Church in
I am especially grateful to the
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who welcomed me in his home, to the
Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II, to Syro-Orthodox
Metropolitan Mor Filuksinos and to the other religious authorities.
Throughout the trip, I experienced the spiritual support of my venerable
predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who both made
memorable visits to
Symbol of a Challenge
Going back to the vision that the Second Vatican Council presents of the Church (see Lumen Gentium 14-16), I might say that the Pope’s pastoral trips also contribute to the accomplishment of his mission, which is divided into “concentric circles.” In the innermost circle, the Successor of Peter confirms the Catholic faithful in the faith; in the intermediate circle, he meets with other Christians; and in the outermost circle he addresses non-Christians and all of mankind.
The first day of my visit to
This intense series of meetings
was an important part of my visit, especially in light of the fact that
Therefore, I had a very good opportunity to express once again my esteem for the Muslims and for Islamic civilization. At the same time, I was able to insist on how important it is for Christians and Muslims to work together for mankind, for life, and for peace and justice, reiterating that the distinction between the civil and religious spheres constitutes a value and that the state must guarantee effective freedom of worship to its citizens and to its religious communities.
In terms of interreligious dialogue, God in his providence allowed me to carry out — almost at the end of my trip — a gesture that had not been foreseen at first and that proved to be extremely significant: a visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Pausing in quiet meditation for a few minutes in that place of prayer, I turned to the one and only Lord of heaven and earth, the merciful Father of all of mankind. May all believers recognize themselves as his creatures and give witness to true brotherhood!
The second day took me to
Archaeological investigations have
demonstrated that this place has been a place of Marian devotion from time
immemorial and it is also much-loved by the Muslims, who go there regularly to
venerate her whom they call Meryem Ana, Mother
Mary. In the garden next to the shrine, I celebrated holy Mass for a group of
faithful who had come from the nearby city of
There I remembered Father Andrea Santoro, a Roman Catholic priest, who gave witness to the Gospel on Turkish soil with his blood.
The intermediate “circle” of ecumenical relations occupied the central part of my trip, taking place on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew. This celebration was the ideal context to strengthen a brotherly relationship between the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, a Church founded according to tradition by the Apostle St. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Following in the footsteps of Paul VI, who met with Patriarch Athenagoras, and of John Paul II, who was welcomed by Athenagoras’ successor, Dimitrios I, I renewed this gesture of great symbolic value with His Holiness Bartholomew I in order to confirm our mutual commitment to continue on the path toward the re-establishment of full communion between Catholics and Orthodox.
To ratify this firm intention, the ecumenical patriarch and I signed a joint declaration that constitutes a further stage on this path. It was particularly significant that this act took place at the end of the solemn liturgy of the feast of St. Andrew, which I attended and which concluded with the double blessing of the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople, the successors of the Apostles Peter and Andrew respectively.
In this way, we manifested that
prayer and perseverance in calling upon the Holy Spirit are always at the
foundation of every ecumenical effort. Along these same lines, I had the joy of
Renewal of Pentecost
Before returning to
My dear brothers and sisters, I
have returned here, to the
May God, almighty and merciful,
help the Turkish people, their political leaders and the representatives of the
various faiths build a future of peace together, so that
Let us pray, moreover, that through the intercession of Mary most holy, the Holy Spirit will make this apostolic trip fruitful and encourage the mission of the Church, instituted by Christ to proclaim to all peoples the Gospel of truth, peace and love throughout the entire world.