Turkish bishops: Pauline year is chance to intensify Christian identity

.- The Bishops’ Conference of Turkey has issued a statement for the celebration of the Pauline Year stressing the need for bolstering Christian identity in their country, which is dominated by the Muslim majority.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, the statement read by the president of the conference, Bishop Luigi Padovese, affirms that “the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of St. Paul involves every Christian community, especially because Paul is a teacher to all the disciples of Christ, but it especially involves us who live in Turkey, since the Apostle of the Gentiles is a son of this land and it is here that he developed his ministry.”

“It was here where he traveled, in less than thirty years, the majority of the 10,000 miles of his travels.  Here above all he experienced hostility, dangers, imprisonment and sufferings of all kinds in order to proclaim Jesus Christ and his gospel. We bishops think that some parts of his letters can be useful to our communities who live as a religious minority,” the statement indicated.

“Because of this situation,” the bishops continued, “we have a clearer awareness of our identity.  And if in the encounter with the Christian world the Apostle is our teacher in relations between different Christian communities, then he is the teacher and the foundation of unity. The faith of the Apostle in the risen Christ, his charity in giving of himself to all is the measure of every Christian in Turkey.”

The Bishops’ Conference of Turkey is composed of seven bishops: three of the Latin rite, two Armenian, one Syrian-Catholic and one Chaldean.  During January, the bishops have been studying the schedule of activities that will be celebrated at the places where St. Paul lived was born, lived and worked.

Tarsus, where St. Paul was born, is currently a Muslim city. The only declared Christian presence is that of three Italian sisters who care for the Eucharist in an apartment.

The Pauline Year will begin on June 28, 2008 and conclude June 29, 2009.

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