Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Turkey in the EU?

Pope Benedict XVI has reversed his position on the entry of Turkey into the EU.

The Times of London has more:

The Pope arrived in Turkey yesterday and within minutes appeared to back the country’s bid to enter the EU. He appealed for Christian-Muslim reconciliation and called on all religious leaders to “utterly refuse to support any form of violence in the name of faith”.

His controversial and potentially hazardous visit to an overwhelmingly Muslim country — it was intended originally to help reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox Christians — was “pastoral, not political”, he insisted.

The build-up has been marked by setbacks in Turkey’s bid for EU membership — which Benedict XVI as a cardinal once termed a grave error — and a row in the Muslim world over his remarks about Islam in a university address two months ago.

His attempt to launch the four-day trip in a spirit of dialogue immediately came up against political realities. Asked by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, about the country’s EU prospects moments after his arrival, Pope Benedict voiced his support. “He said, ‘We’re not political, but we wish for Turkey to join the EU’,” Mr Edogan told reporters after the meeting.

However, a papal spokesman later clarified the Pope’s remarks, saying that he had told the Turkish leader that the Vatican did not have the power or competence to intervene, but “viewed positively and encouraged” the process of Turkish entry into the EU “on the basis of common values and principles”.

Mr Erdogan had also made an about-turn by agreeing to greet Benedict XVI at Ankara airport and hold talks there. In a break with protocol he greeted the Pope, 79, at the steps of his aircraft, a mark of respect from a leader who had initially said that he was too busy to meet him.

The Pope in turn appeared to nod understandingly when Mr Erdogan explained that he had to attend the Nato summit in Riga. Mr Erdogan said: “The most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, reiterating his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate.”

Pope Benedict's reversal makes sense in the context of his mission to Turkey. He seeks to promote a dialog between Christians and Muslims, as well as promote the unity of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. He could hardly accomplish these goals if he continued to object to Turkey's petition for EU membership.

I hope that he won't allow that reversal to become a blind eye to Turkey's incultured discrimination against Christians in the secular nation. If Turkey truly wants to become an EU member, it must act like one. That means not zoning discos across the street from parish churches and the like. Dialog with Muslims must not come at the expense of Christians. Otherwise, it ain't dialog.

Considering the Holy See's support for reciprocity, I don't think that will be the case. The Holy Father's welcoming of Turkey into the EU may, in fact, help ease tensions against him, and against the West in general, which have flared up there lately. Time will tell.

Labels: , ,