.- Greeting the new ambassador of Turkey to the Holy See in the Vatican this morning, Pope Benedict recalled his recent trip to the country and called for continued interreligious cooperation for peace, in the face of “increasing tensions.” After receiving the Letters of Credence of Muammer Dogan Akdur, the Holy Father reiterated his “esteem” Muslim believers.
The Holy Father underlined how during his "memorable visit" to Turkey he had repeatedly expressed "the Catholic Church's respect for Islam, and the esteem in which the Pope and the faithful hold Muslim believers."
“Furthermore,” the Pope said, “religions can unite their forces to promote respect for human beings ... and for the fundamental rights that rule the lives of individuals and societies."
He also expressed the Holy See's appreciation for Turkey's commitment "in favor of peace at the heart of the international community," and particularly "its efforts towards the resumption of negotiations in the Middle East" and its aid in Lebanon "for the reconstruction of a country devastated by war and for the furtherance of constructive dialogue between all sides of Lebanese society."
"The universalization of exchanges, already evident in the economic and financial field, must obviously be accompanied by joint political commitments in order to guarantee organized and lasting development that excludes no one and ensures all peoples a harmonious future," Pope Benedict said
The Holy Father also reiterated his gratitude to the authorities and the people of Turkey for the welcome they showed him during his apostolic visit to the country in December last year.
The Pontiff recalled how, in his meetings with political leaders in Turkey, he had sought to reaffirm "the presence of the Catholic Church in Turkish society, thanks to the important heritage of the first Christian communities of Asia Minor" and the "existence of today's Christian communities, clearly minorities but dedicated to the country and to the common good of all society, and desirous of making their contribution to the construction of the nation."
"While enjoying the religious freedom guaranteed to all believers by the Turkish Constitution, the Catholic Church wishes to benefit from a recognized juridical statute, and to see the start of official dialogue between the episcopal conference and the State authorities in order to resolve any problems that may arise and maintain good relations between both sides. I do not doubt that the government will do everything in its power to progress in this direction."
Benedict XVI concluded his address by asking the ambassador to pass on his greetings to the Catholic communities in Turkey, as well as to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the faithful of the Orthodox Church "to whom," he said, "we are bound by so many fraternal ties."