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Dialogue of friendship – Editorial, Director of "L’Osservatore Romano"

Dialogue of friendship – Editorial, Director of "L’Osservatore Romano"

Coinciding with the Feast of St Andrew,
Patron of the Patriarchal Church of Constantinople, Pope Francis arrived in
Turkey and began his morning in Istanbul with visits to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque
(the famous Blue Mosque), the Hagia Sophia (now a museum). He also gave a
simple greeting to the Catholic community in the small garden of the Apostolic
Delegation. These moments marked the transition to the ecumenical portion of
his journey, which opened in Ankara with the meetings with political and
religious authorities of Turkey.

As the fourth visit by a pope in fewer than
50 years, Francis’ journey represented a new moment of that “dialogue of
friendship, esteem and respect” — as the Pontiff was quick to express — the
seeds of which were cast by Benedict xv nearly a century ago during the First
World War, and then by the presence of Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate in
the country for a decade. Those instances were followed, beginning in 1967, by
the visits of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, especially notable for
the meetings with Patriarchs of Constantinople Athenagoras, Demetrius and
Bartholomew. Pope Francis recalled that this land, inextricably linked to the
origins and history of the Church, is “dear to every Christian”, hinting at the
missions of St Paul, at the ancient Marian traditions and at the first seven
Councils, all celebrated here. He then praised its vitality, acknowledging the
importance of the role and responsibilities that Turkey today plays on the
international level on the front lines of welcoming the tremendous number of
displaced people seeking escape from the tragedies taking place in Syria and

The only way to build peace, Francis
repeated in his meeting with Turkish authorities, is through dialogue,
conscious of differences. And this cannot exclude general respect for the
dignity of every human being, and thus of religious freedom and freedom of
expression. “How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of
this lack of peace?”, the Pope asked with anguish. And he again forcefully
condemned the fundamentalism and terrorism which bloody the region with the
ruthless and brutal persecution of religious minorities, Christian and Yazidi
in particular.

The deplorable situation of the persecuted
was also addressed in the meeting with religious authorities in his visit to
the President of the Diyanet at the Department for Religious Affairs, where in
2006 Benedict xvi had confirmed the desire for friendship with Islam in order
to oppose the exploitation of faiths. “As religious leaders, we are obliged to
denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights”, Francis
repeated, once again pointedly condemning “any violence which seeks religious

Condemnation, however, does not suffice.
Efforts must be made to ward off the intolerance and hatred that hide behind
religious pretexts. It is in this manner, the Pope underscored — in line with
the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate — that Muslims and Christians
can do a lot to recognize the common elements between the two religions,
“though lived according to the traditions of each”; and that they can change
the course which, with contempt for man, leads to death and offends God.


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