Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
Evaluation of Turkish Trip
"The Affection and Cordiality That Surrounded Me …"
H.H. Benedict XVI
December 6, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
As is already customary after every apostolic journey, in this general
audience I would like to review the different stages of the pilgrimage I
made to Turkey from Tuesday to Friday of last week. A visit that, as you
know, did not seem easy from several points of view, but which God
supported from the start and that in this way was able to unfold
happily. Therefore, just as I had asked that it be prepared and
supported with prayer, now I ask you to join me in thanking the Lord for
its development and conclusion.
I entrust to him the fruits that I hope will result from it, be it for
relations with our Orthodox brothers or for dialogue with Muslims.
In the first place, I feel the duty to renew my cordial 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 all would unfold in the best way.
I give thanks fraternally to the bishops of the Catholic Church in
Turkey and to their collaborators for all they have done.
I address special gratitude to Patriarch Bartholomew I, who welcomed me
in his home, to Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II, to Syro-Orthodox
Metropolitan Mor Filuksinos and to the other religious authorities.
Throughout the trip I felt particularly supported by my venerated
predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who
undertook a memorable visit to Turkey, and especially to Blessed John
XXIII, who was papal representative in that noble country from 1935 to
1944, leaving a memory full of affection.
Going back to the vision that the Second Vatican Council presents of the
Church (cf. constitution "Lumen Gentium," Nos. 14-16), I might say that
the Pope's trips also contributed to carry out his mission that takes
place in "concentric circles." In the innermost circle the Successor of
Peter confirms Catholic faithful in the faith, in the intermediate
circle he meets the other Christians, and in the farthest out he
addresses non-Christians and the whole of humanity.
The first day of my visit to Turkey took place in the ambit of this
third "circle," the largest. I met with the prime minister, the
president of the republic, and the president for religious affairs,
addressing my first speech to the latter. I rendered homage at the
mausoleum of the "father of the homeland," Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and
afterward I had the possibility to talk to the diplomatic corps in the
Apostolic Nunciature of Ankara.
This intense series of meetings was an important part of the visit,
especially because Turkey is a country which is predominantly Muslim,
which is governed by a constitution that affirms the state's secularism.
It is, therefore, a country which constitutes an emblem of the great
challenge posed today at the world level. On one hand, it is necessary
to rediscover the reality of God, the public importance of religious
faith and, on the other, to guarantee that the expression of that faith
is free, without fundamentalist degenerations and capable of rejecting
firmly any form of violence.
Therefore, I had the suitable opportunity to renew my sentiments of
esteem to Muslims and to the Islamic civilization. At the same time I
was able to insist on the importance that Christians and Muslims commit
themselves together in favor of the human being, of life, of peace and
of justice, reaffirming that the distinction between the civil and
religious spheres constitutes a value and that the state must guarantee
to the citizens and the religious communities effective freedom of
In the ambit of interreligious dialogue, Divine Providence allowed me to
carry out, almost at the end of my trip, a gesture that initially was
not foreseen and which revealed itself extremely significant: the visit
to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Remaining recollected for a few minutes
in that place of prayer, I turned to the only Lord of heaven and earth,
merciful Father of the whole of humanity, and implored that all
believers might recognize themselves as creatures and give witness of
The second day took me to Ephesus, and I thus found myself rapidly in
the innermost "circle" of the trip, in direct contact with the Catholic
community. In Ephesus, in fact, in a pleasant place called
"Nightingale's Hill," looking over the Aegean Sea, is the Shrine of
Mary's House. It is an ancient and small chapel that has arisen around
the little house that, according to a very ancient tradition, the
Apostle John built for the Virgin Mary, after going with her to Ephesus.
Jesus himself had entrusted them to one another when, before dying on
the cross, he said to Mary: "Woman, behold, your son!" and to John
:"Behold, your mother!" (John 19:26-27).
Archaeological investigations have demonstrated that this place has been
since time immemorial a place of Marian devotion, loved also by 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 nearby Izmir and other parts of
Turkey, as well as from abroad. We felt truly "at home" in "Mary's
House," and in that atmosphere of peace we prayed for peace in the Holy
Land and throughout the world. There I wished to remember Father Andrea
Santoro, a Roman priest, a witness of the Gospel on Turkish soil with
The intermediate "circle," that of ecumenical relations, occupied the
central part of my trip, on the occasion of the feast of St. Andrew, on
November 30. This celebration served as an ideal context to consolidate
fraternal relations 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, brother of Simon Peter.
Following in Paul VI's footsteps, who met with Patriarch Athenagoras,
and of John Paul II, who was welcomed by Athenagoras' successor,
Dimitrios I, I renewed together with His Holiness Bartholomew I this
gesture of great symbolic value to confirm the mutual commitment to
continue on the path toward the re-establishment of full communion
between Catholics and Orthodox.
To sanction this firm intention I signed along with the ecumenical
patriarch a "Joint Declaration," which is a further stage on this path.
It was extremely 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 imparted by the Bishop of Rome and by
the patriarch of Constantinople, successors respectively of the Apostles
Peter and Andrew. In this way we manifested that prayer is always at the
base of every ecumenical effort and the persevering invocation of the
In this same ambit, in Istanbul, I had the joy of visiting the patriarch
of the Armenian Apostolic Church, His Beatitude Mesrob II, and of
meeting the Syro-Orthodox metropolitan. In this context, I remember with
pleasure the conversation I had with the Grand Rabbi of Turkey.
My visit ended, exactly before returning to Rome, by returning to the
innermost "circle," that is, meeting with the Catholic community present
with all its constituents in the Latin Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in
Istanbul. Also attending this holy Mass were the ecumenical patriarch,
the Armenian patriarch, the Syro-Orthodox metropolitan and
representatives of the Protestant churches. In short, all Christians
were gathered in prayer, in the diversity of their traditions, rites and
languages. Comforted by the Word of Christ, who promises believes
"rivers of living water" (John 7:38), and by the image of the many
members united in only one body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13), we lived
the renewed experience of Pentecost.
Dear Brothers and Sisters: I have returned to the Vatican with my spirit
full of gratitude to God and with sentiments of sincere affection and
esteem for the inhabitants of the beloved Turkish nation, by whom I have
felt welcomed and understood. The affection and cordiality that
surrounded me, despite the inevitable difficulties that my visit caused
to the normal unfolding of daily activities, remain with me as an
intense memory that leads me to pray. May the Almighty and Merciful God
help the Turkish people, its political leaders and the representatives
of the religions to build together a future of peace so that Turkey can
be a "bridge" of friendship and fraternal collaboration between West and
Let us pray, moreover, so that through the intercession of Mary Most
Holy, the Holy Spirit will make this apostolic journey fruitful, and
encourage throughout the world the mission of the Church, instituted by
Christ to proclaim to all peoples the Gospel of truth, peace and love.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several
languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I invite you to join me in thanking God for the success of my
recent Apostolic visit to Turkey. On my first day I met civic
representatives, and reminded them of the great need to rediscover God
and the public relevance of faith, while ensuring that such faith is
properly understood and lived authentically. In expressing my esteem for
Islamic civilization, I urged Christians and Muslims to work together
for peace, justice and life! The following day I visited Ephesus and the
sanctuary nearby where, according to an ancient tradition, the Apostle
John constructed a house for the Virgin Mary. During Mass we prayed for
peace in the Holy Land and the whole world. The feast of Saint Andrew
was dedicated to consolidating fraternal relationships between the
Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. In
signing a Joint Declaration, we reaffirmed our commitment to follow the
path of full communion between Catholics and Orthodox. My visit was
concluded in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul, where
Christians from various traditions, gathered in prayer, experienced a
renewed Pentecost! Full of gratitude and affection for the people of
Turkey, I invite you all to pray that country may enjoy a peaceful
future, as a bridge of friendship between the West and the East!
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including the
student groups from America, Australia and Denmark. May your Advent
visit to Rome be a time of renewed hope and joy. Upon all of you, I
invoke God's abundant Blessings!
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