Vatican City, 3 December 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience to his recent visit to Turkey, a land dear to many Christians for being the birthplace of the apostle Paul, hosting the first seven councils, and for the presence, near Ephesus, of the “House of Mary”. In the same way as he asked the faithful, before his journey, to accompany him in prayer, today he asked them to give thanks to the Lord for the success of the trip and to pray that it might bear the fruit of dialogue in our relationship with our Orthodox and Muslim brothers, and in the path towards peace among peoples.
Francis spoke first of his meeting with the authorities on Friday 29, thanking them for the care and respect with which they greeted him. In a constitutionally secular country with a Muslim majority, the Pope noted that it is oblivion to God and not His glorification that engenders violence, and insisted before the leaders of the nation on the importance of concerted efforts between Christians and Muslims for solidarity, peace and justice, reaffirming the need for States to guarantee real freedom of worship to citizens and religious communities.
On the second day, the Pope visited the Museum of Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, highly symbolic places for the different religions that co-exist in Turkey. “I did so, feeling within my heart the wish to invoke the Lord, God of Heaven and Earth, merciful Father of all humanity”. The central event of the day was the Mass held in the Cathedral, attended by pastors and faithful of the various Catholic rites in Turkey, along with representatives of other confessions, to invoke together the Holy Spirit, “who builds the unity of the Church: unity in faith, unity in charity, unity in internal cohesion”, so that the People of God, “in the richness of their traditions”, may grow in openness and obedience to His divine action”.
The feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Church of Constantinople, on 30 November, offered the ideal context for consolidating the fraternal relations between the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I, who renewed their joint commitment to the path of re-establishing full communion between Catholics and Orthodox, and signed a Joint Declaration which represents a significant step along the way. Francis expressed his joy at having participated in the Divine Liturgy and for the dual blessing imparted by the Pope and the Patriarch at the end. “Prayer is the foundation of any fruitful ecumenical dialogue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”.
The Holy Father's final meeting, of which he spoke with emotion, was with a group of young refugees from the war zones of the Middle East, under the care of the Salesians. “It was very important for me to meet them”, he said, “both to express my closeness and that of the Church, and to highlight the importance of hospitality; a value to which Turkey is committed”. The Pope again thanked the country for its work in this field, praised the Salesians for their work with the young refugees, and concluded by again asking all those present to pray for refugees and internally displaced people, and for the removal of the causes of this “painful scourge”.