Vatican City, 1 December 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday, as is his custom, Pope Francis spoke with the journalists accompanying him on the return flight from Istanbul to Rome. The questions touched mostly on the themes of relations between Islam and Christianity, and ecumenism.
The Holy Father affirmed that the Qu'ran is a book of peace and that Islam cannot be equated with terrorism; however, he remarked, it is necessary for Muslim political, religious and academic leaders to condemn terrorist attacks so that the people may hear this directly from such figures. He also revealed that in the Blue Mosque, he prayed above all for peace. Referring later on to so-called “Christianophobia” or anti-Christian sentiment, as opposed to “Islamophobia”, he underlined that today there are many Christian martyrs among the populations of the Middle East, and he mentioned those compelled to leave their homes. This martyrdom has been the fate of faithful of different Christian confessions and has given rise to an “ecumenism of blood”.
With regard to the Middle East, he spoke about the situation in Syria, condemning the traffic and sale of arms, and reiterated that behind every war there are always political and economic problems and commercial interests, in attempts to save a system that accords centrality to the god of money, rather than human beings. The Pope observed that it seems to him we are experiencing a third world war, fragmented and dispersed in various places, and expressed his wish to go to Iraq, although he remarked that at the moment it would not be possible since it would create important problems for the authorities and difficulties regarding security. Francis revealed that he considers the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border to be a very important issue, but is aware that there are political issues that make this difficult, and he invited prayer to contribute to making this opening possible.
The Pope focused closely on the question of ecumenism, commenting that it is a path that must be followed together and stressing the importance of spiritual ecumenism – praying, working and carrying out charitable works together. He added that with orthodoxy, this joint path is proving successful thanks to the sacraments and the apostolic succession, and that it will be fundamental to provide an answer to the question posed by John Paul II when he asked the Orthodox to help arrive at a formula for primacy acceptable to these Churches. He also expressed his wish to go to Moscow in order to meet with the Patriarch Kiril, but not at the moment due to the pressing problems in Ukraine. Again in relation to ecumenism, he stressed that when the Church looks inwardly to herself rather than at Christ, when she believes herself to be a creator of light rather than a bringer of light, she creates divisions. Finally, he remarked on the desire of Christians to be able to celebrate Easter on the same date.
One of the final questions related to the recent Synod of Bishops, and the Holy Father affirmed that the Synod is a path and a process, and therefore a person's opinion or a draft document cannot be given consideration. Nor is the Synod a parliament, but rather a protected space where one may let the voice of the Spirit be heard.