Benedict Will Face Touchy Issues During Turkey Visit
A look at the major issues that are involved, such as Catholic-Muslim relations, issues involving the Orthodox, and also the effect the trip might have on Turkey’s bid to get into the EU and particularly the question of religious freedom rights in Turkey. Also, some Italian commentators have suggested Benedict's meeting with Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II could fuel the ongoing controversy regarding alleged Turkish genocide against Armenians in 1915.
BY EDWARD PENTIN
October 29-November 4, 2006 Issue | Posted 10/25/06 at 10:00 AM
Analysts say the trip is of major
importance for three reasons: for furthering religious freedom in
As the Register went to press, the
details of the apostolic voyage had yet to be finalized. But according to Asia
The following day, the Holy Father will travel to the port city of Izmir near Ephesus where he will visit an ancient Christian community, before moving on to Ephesus itself where he is expected to visit Meryem Ana, a small house on a hilltop overlooking the Aegean Sea where, according to tradition, Mary lived out her final years and was assumed into heaven.
On Nov. 29, Benedict is scheduled
to arrive in
On Nov. 30, on the feast of St.
Andrew, the Pope will attend a solemn Divine Liturgy presided over by the
patriarch. The Holy Father is expected to deliver a discourse on the quest for
Christian unity and comment on this year’s resumption of the Commission of
Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and
Before returning to
Turkish Christians still face discrimination, despite residing in the country for 2,000 years (the Orthodox have few rights over their property and are subject to special legal restrictions).
“We have to hope that the Pope’s visit — to an ecumenical patriarchate that is for all practical purposes controlled by the Turkish government — advances the cause of religious freedom in Turkey and throughout the Islamic world,” papal biographer George Weigel told the Register.
“No one should gainsay the
difficulty of that project, however,” Weigel said.
“Not because of the Pope’s
A number of senior Vatican
officials hope Benedict will be able to reach out to Muslims during the trip by
conveying the true message of his
Some observers recommended caution in addressing that issue.
“If he refers directly to it, I
don’t think it will help because Muslims are not ready to understand it,” said
Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, professor of Oriental theology at
But others insisted that the focus of the Pope’s Regensburg address — the need to reconcile faith and reason — is crucial to furthering Muslim-Christian dialogue and to helping Muslims renounce violent extremism.
“Why do we have to wait to discuss this?” asked Father Justo Lacunza-Balda, rector emeritus of the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. “For years, we have not confronted these issues; we have to begin somewhere.”
Another touchy issue is
A Turkish government spokesman told the Register Oct. 20 that the Pope will probably have to “clarify” his position on the matter.
The meeting with Armenian
Patriarch Mesrob II might also generate friction.
Some Italian commentators have argued that by meeting the patriarch, the Pope
will bear witness to allegations that
Benedict’s meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I is likely to be much less controversial, but potentially far more significant.
The patriarch told reporters Sept. 29 he was anticipating the visit with “great brotherly love.” That fraternal affection could be decisive in reaching a constructive outcome now that formal Catholic-Orthodox dialogue has resumed, and discussions have begun on the key issue of papal primacy.
Some Vatican analysts have
expressed concern about the Pope’s security in the wake of the
The Turkish government has also moved to ease the security concerns by noting that the country has hosted many world leaders without problems, including President Bush in 2004.
The government spokesman said that Turks view the papal visit as an opportunity for reconciliation, not confrontation.
“There is no opposition to his
visit, but we have been heartbroken and offended, recently after the
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