On the last day of his Apostolic voyage to Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the country’s Catholic community, affirming that the Church does not wish to impose its faith on anyone but, “merely asks to live in freedom,” in order to reveal Christ Jesus.
The Holy Father reminded the numerous Catholics gathered in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit that the Church, “has been charged to proclaim (Christ’s) Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), transmitting to the men and women of our time the Good News which not only illuminates but overturns their lives, even to the point of conquering death itself. This Good News is not just a word, but a person, Christ himself, risen and alive!”
“The Church’s mission,” he added, “is not to preserve power, or to gain wealth; her mission is to offer Christ, to give a share in Christ’s own life, man’s most precious good, which God himself gives us in his Son.”
To this end, the Pope said, “the Church wishes to impose nothing on anyone…she merely asks to live in freedom, in order to reveal the One whom she cannot hide, Christ Jesus, who loved us to the end on the Cross and who has given us his Spirit, the living presence of God among us and deep within us.”
Present at the Mass were representatives of the numerous Catholic rites and communities which exist in Turkey. Also present were Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Mesrob II, and Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan Filuksinos Yusuf Cetin, as well as representatives from the Protestant Churches.
Pope Benedict also recalled during the Mass, which was celebrated in several languages, including Latin, Turkish, French, German, Syriac, Arabic and Spanish, the words of Pope John Paul II when he celebrated Mass at the cathedral in 1979.
Pope John Paul, “expressed his hope that the dawn of the new millennium would ‘rise upon a Church that has found again her full unity, in order to bear witness better, amid the exacerbated tensions of this world, to God’s transcendent love, manifested in his Son Jesus Christ,’” Pope Benedict said. “This hope has not yet been realized, but the Pope still longs to see it fulfilled, and it impels us, as disciples of Christ advancing with our hesitations and limitations along the path to unity, to act ceaselessly ‘for the good of all,’ putting ecumenism at the forefront of our ecclesial concerns, and not committing our respective Churches and communities to decisions which could contradict or harm it. Thus we will truly live by the Spirit of Jesus, at the service of the common good.”
“To manifest the Spirit, to live by the Spirit, is not to live for oneself alone, but to let oneself be conformed to Christ Jesus by becoming, like him, the servant of his brothers and sisters,” Benedict said.
"Together with the Virgin," he concluded, "let us pray to Christ her Son: Send forth, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit upon the whole Church, that He may dwell in each of her members and make them heralds of Your Gospel!"
The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit was inaugurated in 1846. Under the altar are relics of several saints, among them St. Linus, St. Peter’s immediate successor who served as Pope and died as a martyr in 69 AD. In 1884, Pope Leo XIII also donated to the cathedral a relic of St. John Chrysostom, who served the Church of Constantinople.
Prior to the Mass the Holy Father paused in the church’s courtyard to bless a new statue of Blessed Pope John XXIII, which is to be place in a local church. He also released three white doves.
In the courtyard also stands a statue of Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), erected by the Turks in memory of that Pope's commitment in favor of the Turkish victims of World War One. An inscription on the statue reads: "To the great pontiff of the world tragedy, Benedict XV, benefactor of peoples without distinction of nationality or religion, in recognition."
Two of the current Holy Father’s immediate predecessors have visited the Holy Spirit Cathedral. In 1967, Pope Paul VI visited the cathedral in the company of Patriarch Athenagoras, a gesture repeated by John Paul II, accompanied by Patriarch Dimitros I, in 1979.
Following Mass, the Pope expressed his appreciation for "the understanding and patience," and for "the truly warm welcome I have been shown, also because I know that my presence over these days has created no small disturbance in the daily lives of people in this city."
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Pope went by car to the airport of Istanbul where he bid farewell to the ecumenical patriarch, the Armenian apostolic patriarch and the Syro-Orthodox metropolitan. Before boarding the plane bound for Rome, he met briefly with the governor of the local region and the mayor of Istanbul.