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Theme: Assessing the Pope’s trip to Turkey

December 19, 2006

(with a focus on his rapprochement with Islamic leaders there)

Commentary:
David Yerushalmi: What was the Pope doing in Turkey?

While the Pope knew he would disappoint many Catholics and non-Catholics in the West for what appears as unnecessary humiliation and capitulation, he also knows that the West, given its rejection of Truth and Reason and its fixation with the ratiocination of modern science, is simply incapable of defeating Islam. He feels compelled, given that assessment, to sacrifice the dignity of the Church in order to create an environment in which the Muslim leadership in Turkey, and elsewhere in the Muslim world, will feel compelled to return at least publicly these supreme gestures.

We must say, if we are correct, that the Pope’s assessment of the situation in the West needs to be a frightening alarm. If this is the best defense we have against the onslaught of Islam, the West and America are in trouble – the Pope’s good intentions notwithstanding.

Serge Trifkovic: Pope in Turkey: A Reluctant State Guest

Turkey, a nominally secular country, is abusing its position of physical control over the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and using it as a means of forcing the pope to convert a visit originally intended to be pastoral into a state occasion. Furthermore, regarding his latest statements on Islam’s “peacefulness” and his support for Turkey in the European Union, there was a pound of flesh to be extracted on the account of his Regensburg address and his earlier statements that clearly indicated his opposition to Turkey joining the EU. On both those topics I do not believe that the Pope was being completely sincere in his latest statements, but he is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, had he cancelled the visit, that would have aggravated the position of the remaining few Christians in Turkey, who are already under immense pressure. On the other hand, once he decided to go ahead with the visit, he knew he’d have to make all of the politically correct statements that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others were expecting. Personally I think it was rather unfortunate that the pope opted for the second course. I do not think that Turkey belongs in the European Union. If one were to be cynical one could say that the only reason why Turkey should join the EU is to bring about a speedy end of that odious institution, because it would be subjected to all kinds of internal pressures that could no longer be accommodated. Nevertheless, the Pope’s statement about the “peaceful” and “loving” nature of Islam is not only at odds with his Regensburg address—where he was only quoting Emperor Manuel, rather than venting his own views—but it is quite clear that his words in Ankara were spoken under duress.

Richard John Neuhaus: On The Square

Before he was elected pope, Cardinal Ratzinger had expressed definite misgivings about Turkey’s being part of Europe. The “reversal” that the Times headlined was of its own manufacture, however. The reporters and editors took at face value the boast of Erdogan after his brief meeting with Benedict. The story follows the line of the Times following the pope’s lecture in Regensburg, Germany. Editorially and in news reports (the two are easily confused), the Times criticized the pope for raising awkward questions about Islam and violence—questions to which thousands of Muslims reacted with violence.

What the Times calls a “reversal” and “concession” by the pope is based on the uncorroborated statement of Erdogan. The Holy See issued a clarifying statement. Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the Holy See “has neither the power, nor the specific or political role of intervening in the question of Turkey’s entry into the European Union. This is outside the competence of the Holy See.” He added that “the Vatican looks positively on and encourages the path of dialogue and of rapprochement in Europe on the basis of common values and principles.”

In first place among those common values and principles, as Benedict made repeatedly and emphatically clear during the days in Turkey, is religious freedom, which entails the unequivocal abjuration of violence in relations between religions and cultures. In sum, the witness of Pope Benedict in Turkey perfectly exemplified the principled position he boldly – or, as some would have it, controversially – set forth at Regensburg.

John L. Allen Jr.: Benedict and religious freedom in Turkey

The leitmotif of Benedict XVI’s Nov. 28-Dec. 1 trip to Turkey was the effort to mend fences following his Sept. 12 comments at the University of Regensburg, effectively linking Islam with violence. In light of that agenda, and keeping in mind the precarious conditions facing Turkey’s local Christian population, the pope took great pains not to offend his Turkish hosts.

Never did Benedict specifically engage the de jure and de facto forms of discrimination facing Christians in Turkey, including the fact that Christian churches have no legal personality and hence cannot own property or enter into contracts; it’s often impossible to obtain permits to repair or build churches; Turks who convert to Christianity are sometimes harassed, finding it difficult even to change their religious affiliation on their Turkish identity card; visiting clergy are sometimes denied visas or residency permits; especially in rural areas, the Turkish press often floats conspiracy theories and charges of “proselytism” against Christians; Turkish authorities do not recognize any “ecumenical” role for the Patriarch of Constantinople, restricting eligibility for the office to Turkish citizens; and most notoriously, the seminaries of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox churches have been closed by government edict since 1971.

Yet even if Benedict left all this unsaid, he did repeatedly invoke religious freedom at the level of general principle….

News Items:
The Universe: Pope’s Turkey Trip Defies Expectations and is Hailed as Major Success

They could hardly believe their ears when he told them twice: “I love the Turks.”

But it was in Istanbul, a fascinating city of 14 million people which joins Europe and Asia, that he stunned people everywhere. There, visiting the Blue Mosque, facing Mecca, he prayed in silence to the One Merciful God that both religions adore. That unprecedented prayer touched the hearts of Muslims and Christians worldwide, and endeared him to Turks.

Istanbul’s Grand Mufti said his gesture in the mosque was “even more meaningful than an apology.”

IHT: Some Arab Muslims say pope’s Turkey tour insufficient to make amends for Prophet comments

Although Benedict later expressed regret for the remarks, many Arab Muslims said he has still failed to adequately apologize for statements that caused an explosion of outrage among their numbers.

“This visit didn’t diminish the frustration in the Muslim world and other measures are required to rectify the matter,” Abu Bakr argued.

Blog Talk:
Mere Rhetoric: The Significance Of the Pope’s Visit To Turkey – Not That Much, Actually
Amy Welborn: Wobbly Pope?
Ignatius Insight Scoop: The Pope: The Last Hope for the West?

Additional Links:
Vatican: Apostolic Journey to Turkey
Chiesa: After the Visit to Turkey, the Travel Diary of His Holiness
John L. Allen Jr.: With Turkey’s Armenians, Benedict shows off his ‘great ear’

Related Posts:
Article: Why the Pope should call for the return of the Hagia Sophia
Article: Pope Benedict’s ‘soft tone’ in Turkey seeks to win Muslim hearts, minds
Article: Islam gets concessions; infidels get conquered
Debate: The Question of Dialogue

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One Comment
  1. Fascinating reading! I have had to leave much of the news world and blogosphere because there is so much conjecture and opinionated nonsense, my brain and heart ached.

    Thank you for providing a point-counterpoint roundup.

    There is so much here to contemplate and pray about.

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