"The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI welcomed with joy the news of the first Encounter of Civilizations, celebrated in Antioch from September 25 to 30. He sent his warm greetings to the organizers of the conference, assuring them of his prayers so that the participants could deepen these values recognizing the centrality of the person and promotes the mutual understanding, respect and peace, in their determination to celebrate the cultural and spiritual heritage of each one."
This message was send, on behalf of Pope Benedict, by Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to the numerous religious and political leaders, experts and ambassadors of more than 40 countries gathered in Turkey.
The message of the pope was read last Sunday in the inauguration of that event. After emphasizing that the city of Antioch was "a testimony of the succession of various civilizations," Benedict XVI pointed to the fact that, "we can’t forget the lessons of the past, as we are confronted to today’s challenges."
"It is something urgent in an era of globalization, in which the danger that the fundamental human values can be sacrificed in the name of progress or lost because of destructive secular ideologies."
In that context, Benedict XVI reminded the importance of the "primacy of dignity of the person, always at the heart of any real civilization." For that the pope encouraged "finding the ways and structures that assure the unconditional respect of all human life, in all his wealth."
"That all may have access to a worthy life, that the youth would be educated in the truth with noble ideals, that communication flourishes and that religious freedom may be protected including those of minorities. The reconciliation and peace message of the Gospel doesn’t limit to a people, but it goes beyond ethnic and cultural boundaries."
The pope recalled the special tie that unites the city of Antioch to the followers of Christ, were for the first time they were called Christians.
Among the participants are Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Religious Affairs Directorate; Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew; Armenian Patriarch Mutafian; Izak Haleva, the chief rabbi of Jews in Turkey; Yusuf Cetin, the acting patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Turkey; Paul Yazigi, Antioch Greek Orthodox acting patriarch; and ambassadors of 45 countries are among the dignitaries who will participate in the meeting.