Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey

The Church needs to breathe with two lungs.

The world's largest monotheistic faiths need to live in mutual respect and peace.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Turkey to further those goals.

The AP has the story:

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Turkey Tuesday on his first visit to a Muslim country, where he will seek to ease anger over his perceived criticism of Islam and mend a split with the world's Orthodox Christians.

The pope's airplane landed in the Turkish capital of Ankara, amid a massive security operation designed to thwart any attempts to disrupt the pontiff's four-day trip at a time of heightened tension between the West and Islam.

Before departing for Ankara, the pontiff said in Rome that he was embarking on a "trip of dialogue, brotherhood and reconciliation at this difficult moment in history."

Turkish police monitored the highway leading to Ankara from the airport, where Turkish and Vatican flags waved in a light breeze. Snipers climbed atop buildings and hilltops. In wooded areas along the route, soldiers in camouflage fatigues set up observation points and sniffer dogs passed along bridges.

Benedict's journey is extraordinarily sensitive, a closely watched pilgrimage full of symbolism that could offer hope of religious reconciliation, or deepen what many say is a growing divide between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

The outcome depends partly on the words and gestures of Benedict, who triggered an outcry in September when he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman."

The Vatican said the speech was an attempt to highlight the incompatibility of faith and violence, and Benedict later expressed regret for the violent Muslim backlash.

The original goal of the pope's trip to Turkey was to meet Bartholomew I, leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians. The two major branches of Christianity represented by Bartholomew and Benedict split in 1054 over differences in opinion on the power of the papacy, and the two spiritual heads will meet in an attempt to breach the divide and reunite the churches.

Benedict leaves Ankara on Wednesday for Ephesus, where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last years, and will then travel to Istanbul, a former Christian metropolis known as Constantinople until Ottoman Turks conquered it in 1453.

His visit has immense implications for all of us and for the world. We can all pray for his security and success on this pilgrimage. Jimmy Akin offers us a prayer that a reader forwarded to him:


NOV. 28 – DEC. 1, 2006

Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence. We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer composed by Bishop William E. Lori,
Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain

So Say We All!

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