Vatican City, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Holy See announced today that the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will meet with Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow as the Holy Father arrives at the Ankara airport. Erdogan had announced previously that scheduling conflicts would not allow him to meet with the Pope.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s office said that it would be possible to schedule a meeting prior to Erdogan’s departure for Latvia, where he will participate in a NATO summit November 28th and 29th.
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive at the airport at 1pm local time and will meet with Erdogan prior to visiting the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state.
The Pope’s visit to Turkey will begin tomorrow and end on December 1st.
The Vatican had previously downplayed comments in the international media that the Prime Minister’s absence was an intentional slight aimed at the Pope. Some claimed that members of the Turkish government were avoiding the Pontiff after the violent reaction to his misinterpreted comments on Islam and the prophet Mohammed.
According to the Associated Press, Erdogan's spokesman, Akif Beki, has also confirmed the meeting. News reports in Turkey said the meeting would last 20 minutes, but Beki said he didn't know the duration.
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - In what is being reported as an attempt to “ease Muslim anger” by the Turkish press, Pope Benedict XVI will visit Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque during his visit to Turkey this week.
The Sultanahmet, or Blue Mosque, stands in a square of the same name in the historical district of Istanbul, opposite the “Aya Sofya” (or Hagia Sophia) museum. It was built in 1609 to rival the city's magnificent Christian basilica, the Hagia Sophia.
Vatican Press Office director Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed Sunday that Benedict will pay a short visit to the mosque on Nov. 30, the same day he is scheduled to visit the Hagia Sophia, which was converted to a mosque and is now a museum.
Turkish press reported that the visit to the mosque was suggested by Turkey's department of religious affairs to ease Muslim anger. Pope John Paul II made the first visit by a pontiff to a mosque during a trip to Damascus in 2001.
While the trip was initially organized to enhance dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, it has developed into an opportunity to heal wounds with the Muslim world after the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Islam was violent and irrational.
Although the Pope has said that he does not share the emperor’s view, some Muslim Turks have been protesting his visit.
More than 20,000 Muslims in Istanbul on Sunday staged the biggest protest so far against Pope Benedict’s trip. Organizers had expected 75,000.
Youths wearing headbands with Islamic scripts, beating drums and waving Turkish red and white flags chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) in the peaceful rally.
One student said he believed the cardinals elected Benedict to be Pope because they knew he was against Islam. Another student said he linked the suffering in Palestine, Iraq, and Chechnya to Christianity.
Fr. Lombardi has said the Vatican has no fears for the Pope's safety while he is in Turkey, and he will not be wearing a bullet-proof vest at any time.
He said Turkey is able to “guarantee security on this trip without any problems.”
Turkish authorities are expected to put scores of snipers on rooftops during the Pope's visit and police with machine guns will patrol the Bosphorus in boats when he is Istanbul.
The Vatican and office of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a pious Muslim, announced today that the Prime Minister will most likely meet with the Pope before going to a NATO summit in Riga.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told a news conference that he hopes the Pope’s visit will “help eliminate misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians." Gul will be out of the country during the Pope's visit.
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking on the Solemnity of Christ King yesterday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that men and women must freely accept the Love and Truth that Christ offers in order to receive the peace and joy of God’s reign.
Prior to praying the Angelus with the gathered crowd the Holy Father recalled how today's Gospel reading recounts the meeting between Jesus and Pontius Pilate.
"Answering the Roman governor's questions, Jesus affirms His kingship but says it is not of this world. He did not come to dominate peoples and lands, but to free mankind from the slavery of sin, and to reconcile him with God. And He added: 'For this ... I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth,'" the Pope said.
"But what is this 'truth'," the Holy Father asked, "to which Christ has come to bear witness in the world?" And he answered: "His entire existence reveals that God is love. This is, then, the truth to which He bore full witness with the sacrifice of His life at Calvary. The Cross is the 'throne' from which he demonstrated the sublime regality of God-Love. Offering Himself in atonement for the sin of the world, He defeated the dominion of 'the ruler of this world' and definitively established the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that will be fully realized at the end of time, after all the enemies - and in the last instance, death - will have been defeated. Then the Son will consign the Kingdom to the Father and, finally, God will 'be everything to everyone.'”
"The road to reach this goal," the Pope added, "is long and no shortcuts are allowed. Indeed, it is necessary for each individual to freely accept the truth of God's love. He is Love and Truth, and neither love nor truth ever impose themselves; they knock at the door of the heart and the mind and, where they are allowed in, they bring peace and joy. This is the way God reigns, this is His process of salvation, a 'mystery' in the biblical sense of the word, in other words a plan that is revealed little by little over history."
Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by pointing out how "the Virgin Mary is associated with Jesus' regality ... God asked that humble girl from Nazareth to become the mother of the Messiah, and Mary answered this call with all of herself, uniting her unconditional 'yes' to that of the Son Jesus and making herself, with Him, obedient even unto sacrifice. For this reason, God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth."
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - Following his Sunday address and the praying of the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI sent special greetings to the people of Turkey and asked for prayers that his trip might “bring the fruits that God desires.”
The Pontiff reminded the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, that tomorrow he will begin his apostolic trip to Turkey where, between November 28 and December 1, he will visit Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul.
"From this moment," he said, "I would like to send my cordial greetings to the dear Turkish people, so rich in history and culture. To that people, and to their representatives, I extend sentiments of respect and sincere friendship."
Benedict XVI also mentioned the "deep emotion" he felt at having the opportunity to meet the country's "small Catholic community, which is ever present in my heart, and to unite myself fraternally with the Orthodox Church for the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle," on November 30.
"I trustingly follow the footsteps of my venerated predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, and I invoke the celestial protection of Blessed John XXIII who for ten years was apostolic delegate in Turkey and nourished great affection and respect for that country."
The Holy Father concluded his remarks by asking everyone to accompany him "with prayer, that this pilgrimage may bring the fruits that God desires."
Vatican City, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with Turkish press yesterday, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Director of the Holy See Press Office reiterated that the Vatican is not opposed to Turkey joining the European Union.
Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Fr. Lombardi pointed out that the issue of Turkish membership in the EU is a political one and that it must be noted that the Vatican is not a member of the EU. He concluded that there can be no objections to membership if Turkey fulfills its obligations and meets the requirements of the EU criteria.
The Turkish press has repeatedly circulated comments made by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, that including Turkey in the EU would be a “grave error against the tide of history,” considering the Christian history of Europe.
Though Pope Benedict has spoken on the need to rediscover the Christian identity of Europe, he has not directly commented on the Turkish/E.U. issue since his election.
Rome, Italy, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict prepares to travel to Turkey, the Prefect for the Congregation for Oriental Churches, Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, said the Turkish bishops hope that their country would be a “cradle of Christianity and will continue being a land of fraternal dialogue between religions and cultures.”
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the cardinal expressed his joy at being able to return to Turkey with Pope Benedict XVI after his last visit in May of 2004, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the visit by Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal Daoud recalled that Turkey “is the land of illustrious patriarchal sees and of great Councils; it has been the privileged place of the incarnation of the Christian faith. There Christianity has fostered the growth of diverse cultures and sensibilities that have distinguished it, throughout the centuries, giving birth to a wide array of theologians and rites that make Turkey even today a pluralist phenomenon.”
Cardinal Daoud said the Catholic Church in Turkey has a “plural face” reflected in the bishops’ conference, which is made up of three Latin-rite bishops, two Armenian Catholic bishops, one Siro-Catholic patriarchal vicar and one Chaldean patriarchal vicar.
The bishops speculate that there are around 30,000 Catholics in Turkey, the cardinal stated. “It seems that the era of a progressively dwindling presence of Catholics has ended, and thus we hope that Turkey will be a cradle of Christianity and will continue to be a land of fraternal dialogue between religions and cultures,” he said.
During his visit to Turkey, Benedict XVI will preside at a Mass on December 1 at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. It will be his only event for the local Catholic community.
Sydney, Australia, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell has urged MPs to oppose controversial legislation that would allow the creation of cloned embryos for stem-cell research. Informing Australians about some specifics of the bill, he explained that it would allow scientists to clone embryos with ova harvested from aborted girls.
The bill is expected to go to a free vote in Australia’s Parliament by Thursday. It will be introduced to Parliament by West Australian Liberal MP Mal Washer, a medical doctor who has become a passionate advocate for stem-cell research.
“While these human embryos are tiny, they will be used for parts, for stem cells, before their destruction by the 14th day,” said the cardinal in column published in the Sunday Telegraph. “If the House of Representatives repeats the mistake narrowly made in the Senate, we shall be pushed further and faster down a slippery slope.”
The bill passed in the Senate two weeks ago by two votes, reported The Age.
“Four years ago when Federal Parliament allowed experiments on ‘excess’ human embryos surplus to IVF processes, cloning was forbidden as illegal and those who then claimed we were on a slippery slope were ridiculed as alarmists,” said the cardinal-archbishop of Sydney.
“Ignorance and confusion abound on these matters, but principles of long-term importance are being broken and new movable standards are being erected temporarily to be further ‘improved’ in the years ahead,” he cautioned.
The cardinal said few Australians would know that “the bill proposes to legalize the manufacture of cloned embryos with only one genetic parent; hybrid embryos with multiple genetic parents, and embryos whose mother is an aborted girl fetus.”
“Scientists propose to use the immature eggs (precursor cells) from aborted baby girls to create human embryos for experimentation and destruction,” he explained.
Since embryonic stem-cell research has not produced any of the cures if promised, there is no justification for the further expenditure of government money on the research, he argued.
Boston, Mass., Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - To mark Thanksgiving and in preparation for Christmas, Cardinal Sean O’Malley sent holiday greetings to the military men and women from the Archdiocese of Boston who are on tour, as well as to their families and to military chaplains.
In a message posted on his blog, the cardinal-archbishop of Boston said he encourages everyone in the archdiocese to pray daily for military men and women in combat and for those who have returned “after suffering physical or psychological harm.”
“The heavy burden of ensuring, maintaining and fostering peace and freedom falls on your shoulders here on earth,” he continued. “Throughout the history of our country, we have witnessed the sacrifices of the men and women who protect and serve our nation to ensure that we may enjoy the privilege of freedom, including the religious freedom that brings us hope, strength and personal peace in our lives. We are grateful for your many sacrifices.”
Chaplains have reported that the current conflict has resulted in a very high number of amputees, the cardinal noted. “May God grant you courage and strength….Know that everyone at home is praying for your speedy and safe return and an end to the conflict.”
The cardinal recognized the feelings of anxiety and stress that the families of these troops are experiencing, especially during the holidays. He assured them that they are being prayed for.
He also recognized that some of their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, have died in combat.
They “have made the ultimate sacrifice on earth and have given their lives while serving our country,” he said. “Your tears are our tears. Your loss is our loss. While it is never easy to lose someone close to you, we pray that you will find comfort in your faith and in Jesus Christ. As the mass prayers remind us, ‘Life is changed, not ended.’”
Finally, the cardinal thanked military chaplains for fulfilling their vocation and their sacrifices.
“You make the sacraments present to our soldiers in their greatest moment of need,” he wrote. “The kindness, comfort, counsel and support that you provide to those in the military, regardless of their faith or religion, and to their families, is invaluable.”
See Cardinal O’Malley’s complete message at www.cardinalseansblog.org.
Rome, Italy, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - Commenting on the absence of medicines due to high prices in many countries, especially those that are poor, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, has called on the pharmaceutical lobbyists to “not traffic in human suffering.”
During the 21st international conference of the dicastery on the subject, “Pastoral aspects on the cure of infectious diseases,” the cardinal decried the existence of “a lobby of pharmaceutical companies in the United States that exert great pressure” in keeping “certain medicines out of many countries because of their high prices, even in poor countries. The consequences of all this is that many people in the world die because of lack of these medicines. Today we are strongly calling on them not to traffic in human suffering,” he said.
In noting that in recent years infectious diseases have become a major cause of death throughout the world, Cardinal Barragan stressed the dedication of the Church in caring for the infirm.
“We have 113,000 health care centers in the world where these diseases are treated. We can’t say what the Church will do in the future” reaching out to those suffering from illnesses such as AIDS, “but we can explain what she is doing in the present. The international conference we have each year does not seek to foster action by the Church but rather to shed greater light in order to make it more effective,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Lozano expressed his closeness to those who suffer from these diseases and he reminded them that “the Holy Father is always by their side, he cares for them through this Pontifical Council,” and “the Good Samaritan Foundation, founded by John Paul II and confirmed by Benedict XVI, has been created for helping to find cures for the most vulnerable of the world’s infirm.”
Budapest, Hungary, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Hungary called a decision by the government to cut off annual subsidies to Church institutions “unacceptable discrimination” and said it violates the country’s accord with the Holy See.
The Hungarian bishops had requested a meeting with the Minister of Finance before the budget was submitted to Congress, but their request was not granted and the budget that was adopted included a measure cutting off funding for Catholic institutions.
The bishops said the decision amounted to “discrimination against the educational, social and cultural institutions run by the Church. We do not approve that the government of the Republic of Hungary does not fulfill the obligations it assumed under the international accord signed with the Holy See.”
“We accept as something normal that there be certain restrictions,” the bishops noted, “even with regards to ecclesial institutions, but we believe that a discriminatory attitude towards the Church is unacceptable.”
Singapore, Nov 27, 2006 (CNA) - Chinese Catholic pastoral leaders from around the world have expressed concern about the future of their faith communities in their respective countries due to a lack of priests who speak the main Chinese languages.
Other participants at the Worldwide Overseas Chinese Pastoral and Evangelization Convention III in Singapore, held Nov. 17-21, expressed concern about the continuity of their communities, saying that young Chinese prefer are not actively involved in the Chinese community and prefer to join their local Church community, reported UCA News.
About 200 people from 15 countries reportedly participated at the conference, including a dozen Catholics from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Fr. Augustine Chan of the Archdiocese of Toronto said only seven Chinese priests, including two on contract from Hong Kong, serve Chinese Catholics in Canada’s largest diocese. There are 500,000 ethnic Chinese in Greater Toronto.
Participants resolved to increase support for Chinese priestly vocations, to emphasize the formation of youth leaders in their communities and to build communion within their own communities.
Inspired to do greater outreach among the Chinese people, they also decided to share evangelization resources and to create a website to facilitate communication with one another, reported UCA News.