AUDIENCE OF 12/6/06The general audience today began inside St. Peter’s Basilica where the Holy Father addressed a gathering of pilgrims from Lazio, the region within which Rome is located, and other parts of Italy. Here is a translation of his words to them:
Dear brothers and sisters!
I am happy to welcome you in this Basilica and to address to each of you a heartfelt welcome. I greet above all the faithful from the Diocese of Lazio, who have gathered here with their Bishops on the occasion their visit ad limina apostolorum
Dear friends, I encourage you to live your lives of faith ever more profoundly, keeping well in mind the orientations that emerged at the recent convention of the Italian Church in Verona. We are certain that courageous evangelizing action will awaken the hoped-for renewal of Catholic engagement iin society, even in Lazio.
The first task of evangelization is to show Jesus Christ as the Savior of every man. Never tire of entrusting yourselves to Him and of announcing Him through your own life, within your family and in every circle. This is what is expected of the Church today, what is expected of Christians.
Then, I greet you the faithful from the Deaconate of Busto Arsizio, and in thanking you for your visit, I wish that each of you may use this time of Advent as a propitious occasion to strengthen the faith and adhere to the Gospel.
My thoughts also go to you, the representatives of the Parish of the Immaculate in Terzigno, and I invite you – in the school of your celestial patroness, the Holy Virgin - to love God above everything, always willing and ready to do His will.
Finally, I greet you, the students of the Scuole Pie in Frascati, and I asure you of my prayers so that the Redeemer may instill true joy in your hearts and fill you with His gifts.
I bless everyone with affection.
The Pope then proceeded to the Aula Paulo VI where he gave the usual audience and spoke of his recent trip to Turkey.
DEar brothers and sisters!
As has been customary after every Apostolic voyage, I wish - in the course of this general audience - to review the various stages of the pilgrimage which I made to Turkey from Tuesday to Friday last week. A visit which, as you know, was not going to be easy for many reasons, but which God accompanied from the very beginning, and which was therefore happily carried out. Since I had asked you to help prepare and accompany that visit with your prayers, I ask you now to join me in giving thanks to the Lord for its course and its conclusion.
I entrust to Him the fruits that I hope may come from it, both in our relations with our Orthodox brothers as well as in the dialog with Muslims.
First of all, I feel I must renew the heartfelt expression of my appreciation to the President of the Republic of Turkey, to the Prime Minister and to all the other authorities who welcomed me with such courtesy and who assured the conditions necessary so that everything could proceed in the best way possible.
Next I give my fraternal thanks to the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Turkey, and all their co-workers, for everything they have done.
I address particular thanks to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who received me in his home; to the Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II, to the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mor Filuksinos and all the other religious authorities.
Throughout the whole trip, I felt spiritually sustained by my venerated predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who had both made trips to Turkey, but above all, by Blessed John XXIII, who was the Pontifical Representative in that noble land from 1935 to 1944, leaving there memories rich with love and devotion.
Going back to the vision of the Second Vatican Council (cfr Lumen Gentium
, 14-16), I could say that even the apostolic voyages of the Pope contribute to fulfill the mission which extends out in concentric circles.”
In the innermost circle, the Successor of Peter confirms Catholics in their faith; in the intermediate circle, he meets other Christians; and in the outermost ring, he addresses himself to non-Christians and all of humanity.
The first day of my visit to Turkey took place in this third ‘ring’, the largest. I met with the Prime Minister, the President of the Republic and the President for Religious Affairs, addressing the latter with my first discourse. I paid homage at the mausoleun of the “Father of the Nation’ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. And I had the chance to speak to the Diplomatic Corps at the Apostolic Nunciature of Ankara.
This intense series of encounters constituted an important part of the visit, especially considering that Turkey is a nation that is overwhelmingly Muslim but regulated by a Constitution that affirms the secularity of the State.
It is therefore an emblematic nation in terms of the great challenge being played out on a global level today: On the one hand, it is necessary to rediscover the reality of God and the public relevance of religious faith, and on the other, it is necessary to assure that the expression of such faith should be free, devoid of fundamentalist degeneration, and capable of firmly repudiating every form of violence.
Meanwhile, I had the propitious occasion to renew my sentiments of esteem for Muslims and Islamic civilization. At the same time, I was able to insist on the importance of Christians and Muslims committing themselves together for the human being, for life, for justice and peace, restating that the distinction between the civil sphere and the religious constitutes a value, but the State must assure the citizen and the religious communities effective freedom of worship.
In the area of inter-religious dialog, Divine Providence allowed me to carry out, almost at the end of my trip, an act which had not originally been planned, but which proved to be quite significant: the visit to the famed Blue Mosque of Istanbul.
Pausing for some moments of meditation in that place of prayer, I addressed myself to the only Lord of heaven and earth, the merciful Father of all humanity, that all believers may acknowledge themselves to be His creatures and give testimony of true brotherhood!
The second day brought me to Ephesus, and so, I found myself rapidly drawn into the innermost ‘circle’ of this trip, a direct contact with the Catholic community. Near Ephesus, in fact, in a pleasant locality called the Hill of the Nightingale, overlooking the Aegean Sea, is the Sanctuary of Mary’s House.
This is an ancient chapel that was built around a simple cottage which, according to a very ancient tradition, the Apostle John ordered built for the Virgin Mary, after he had broight her there with him to Ephesus. Jesus Himself had entrusted each one to the other when, before dying on the Cross, He said to Mary: “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, “Behold your Mother.” (Jn 19, 26-27).
Archaeological research has shown that the place has been the center of a Marian cult since time immemorial, dear even to Muslims, who habitually com here to venerate She whom they call Meryem Ena, or Mother Mary.
I celebrated Mass in the garden facing the Sanctuary for a group of faithful who had come from the nearby city of Izmir and other parts of Turkey, and even some from abroad. Near Mary’s House, we truly felt ‘at home’, and in that atmosphere of peace, we prayed for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole world. There, I also wanted to remember Don Andrea Santoro, priest of Rome, who bore witness to the Gospel in Turkey with his own blood.
The ‘intermediate circle,’ that of ecumenical relations, occupied the central part of this trip, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30. This was the ideal context for consolidating brotherly relations between the Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, a church founded, according to tradition, by St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter.
Following the footsteps of Paul VI, who met with Patriarch Athenagoras, and of John Paul II, who was welcomed by Athenagoras’s successor Dimitrios I, I renewed with His Holiness Bartholomew I this act of great symbolic value, to confirm our reciprocal commitment to proceed on the road to reestablishing full communion between Catholics and Orthodox.
To ratify our firm intention, I signed along with Patriarch Bartholomew a Common Declaration as an ulterior stage in this common journey. It was particularly significant that this act took place at the end of the Solemn Liturgy of the Feast of St. Andrew, which I attended, and which ended with the double blessing imparted by the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople, successors to Peter and Andrew, respectively.
In that way, we showed that at the bottom of every ecumenical effort, there is always prayer and a persevering invocation of the Holy Spirit.
Still in this circle, I had the joy of visiting the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, His Beatitude Mesrob II, and to meet the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan. And in this context, it is a pleasure to recall the conversation that I had with the Grand Rabbi of Turkey.
My visit concluded, just before departing for Rome, with a return to the innermost circle, meeting the Catholic community that was present in all its components at the Latin Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.
The Mass was attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Armenian Patriarch, the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan and representatives of Protestant Churches. In short, all Christians – in the diversity of their traditions, rites and languages – were together in prayer. Comforted by the word of Christ, who promised to believers ‘rivers of lving water’ (Jn 7,38) and with the image of many members united in one body (cfr 1 Cor 12, 12-13), we lived the experience of a renewed Pentecost.
Dear brothers and sisters, I came back here to the Vatican with my soul filled with gratitude to God and with sentiments of sincere affection and esteem for the inhabitants of the beloved nation of Turkey, by whom I felt welcome and understood.
The sympathy and cordiality that they surrounded me with – nothwithstanding the inevitable difficulties that my visit caused to the normal course of their daily activities – remain with me as a vivid memory that impels me to pray.
May the almighty and merciful God help the Turkish people, those who govern them, and the representatives of the different religions, to construct together a future of peace, that Turkey may be a bridge of friendship and fraternal collaboration between East and West.
Let us pray moreover that, with the intercession of the Most Holy Mary, the Holy Spirit may make this recent apostolic voyage fruitful and inspire in the whole world the mission of the Church instituted by Christ to announce to the whole world the Gospel of truth, peace and love.
Later, he said this in English:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I invite you to join me in thanking God for the success of my recent Apostolic visit to Turkey.
On my first day I met civic representatives, and reminded them of the great need to rediscover God and the public relevance of faith, while ensuring that such faith is properly understood and lived authentically. In expressing my esteem for Islamic civilization, I urged Christians and Muslims to work together for peace, justice and life!
The following day I visited Ephesus and the sanctuary nearby where, according to an ancient tradition, the Apostle John constructed a house for the Virgin Mary. During Mass we prayed for peace in the Holy Land and the whole world.
The Feast of Saint Andrew was dedicated to consolidating fraternal relationships between the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. In signing a Joint Declaration, we reaffirmed our commitment to follow the path to full communion between Catholics and Orthodox.
My visit was concluded in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul, where Christians from various traditions, gathered in prayer, experienced a renewed Pentecost! Full of gratitude and affection for the people of Turkey, I invite you all to pray that this country may enjoy a peaceful future, as a bridge of friendship between the West and the East!
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including the student groups from America, Australia and Denmark. May your Advent visit to Rome be a time of renewed hope and joy. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s abundant Blessings!
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 13/01/2007 22.47]