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Wednesday, November 29, 2006


VATICAN CITY, NOV 29, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Franca, Brazil, presented by Bishop Diogenes Silva Matthes, upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Caetano Ferrari O.F.M.
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 29, 2006 (VIS) - At 8 a.m. today, Benedict XVI travelled by plane from Ankara to the Turkish city of Izmir. From there he went by car to Ephesus.

  Today a city of some 18,000 inhabitants, Ephesus is among the most famous archaeological sites on the shores of the Mediterranean. In ancient times, it was the location of the Temple of Diana, one of the seven Wonders of the World. The city was also home to one of the earliest Christian communities. St. Paul resided there for three years, and St. John the Evangelist lived and died there. In the year 431, an ecumenical council was held at Ephesus which proclaimed the divine motherhood of Mary.

  The shrine of "Meryem Ana Evi" (House of Mother Mary) 4 kilometers from Ephesus, where the Pope met with the Catholic community resident in Turkey, is a center of Marian devotion unique in the world. However, no archeological traces remain, and evidence that Mary truly lived in Ephesus with St. John the Evangelist rests on a first-century tradition and a thirteenth-century Syrian account. The shrine is frequented not only by Christians but also by Muslims who come to venerate Mary in the course of pilgrimages to the nearby Mosque of Isa Bey.

  At 11.30 a.m., Benedict XVI arrived at the shrine's convent of Capuchin Friars, spending a few moments in the chapel and the sacristy before going on to the shrine itself where, at midday, he celebrated Mass. In opening his homily, the Pope gave thanks to God "for Mary's divine motherhood," and described Ephesus as a place "dear to the Christian community," recalling the visits there by his "venerable predecessors the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II," and in particular Blessed John XXIII, papal representative to Turkey from 1935 to 1944.

  John XXIII, said the Pope in his English-language talk, "left to the Church and the world  the legacy of his Christian optimism, rooted in deep faith and constant union with God. In that same spirit, I turn to this nation and, in a special way, to the 'little flock' of Christ living in its midst, in order to offer a word of encouragement and to manifest the affection of the whole Church."

  The Pope mentioned St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, which contains the expression "Christ is our peace," the motto of his apostolic trip. "The Apostle explains," said the Pope, "how, in a truly unforeseen way, messianic peace has now come about in Christ's own person and His saving mystery. He explains it by writing, during his imprisonment, to the Christian community which lived here, in Ephesus. ... The Apostle wishes them 'grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.' Grace is the power that transforms man and the world; peace is the mature fruit of this transformation.  Christ is grace; Christ is peace."

  "The Apostle of the Gentiles says that Christ 'has made us both one'," said the Holy Father, pointing out that these words refer to the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. "Yet they can also extend, by analogy, to the relationship between the peoples and civilizations present in the world.  Christ 'came to proclaim peace,' not only between Jews and non-Jews, but between all nations, since all have their origin in the same God."

  "From this edge of the Anatolian peninsula, a natural bridge between continents, let us implore peace and reconciliation, above all for those dwelling in the Land called 'Holy' and considered as such by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike: it is the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, destined to be the home of a people that would become a blessing for all the nations. Peace for all of humanity!  May Isaiah's prophecy soon be fulfilled: 'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'

  "We all need this universal peace," he added, "and the Church is called to be not only the prophetic herald, but even more, the 'sign and instrument' of this peace.  Against the backdrop of universal peace, the yearning for full communion and concord between all Christians becomes even more profound and intense.

  "Present at today's celebration are Catholic faithful of various rites, and this is a reason for joyful praise of God.  These rites, when they converge in unity and common witness, are an expression of that marvelous variety which adorns the Bride of Christ."

  "Dear brothers and sisters," the Pope concluded, "in this visit I have wanted to convey my personal love and spiritual closeness, together with that of the universal Church, to the Christian community here in Turkey, a small minority which faces many challenges. ... With firm trust let us sing, together with Mary, a Magnificat of praise and thanksgiving to God who has looked with favor upon the lowliness of his servant.  Let us sing joyfully, even when we are tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by ... Don Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration." Fr. Santoro, a priest from Rome, was killed in February this year while praying at his church in the Turkish city of Trabzon.

  This afternoon, the Pope is scheduled to travel from Izmir to Istanbul where he will meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.


VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2006 (VIS) - At 5.30 p.m. today, at the apostolic nunciature in Ankara, the Holy Father met with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Turkish government.

  In his address to them he highlighted how he had come "as a friend and as an apostle of dialogue and peace," adding that "true peace needs justice, to correct the economic imbalances and political disturbances which always give rise to tension and threaten every society."

  In order to prevent conflict, the Holy Father continued, it is not enough to respect and support "the decisions of international institutions." There must be "authentic dialogue, ... in order to arrive at lasting and acceptable political solutions, respectful of persons and peoples.  I am thinking most especially of the disturbing conflict in the Middle East, which shows no sign of abating and weighs heavily on the whole of international life;  I am thinking of the risk of peripheral conflicts multiplying and terrorist actions spreading.  I appreciate the efforts of numerous countries currently engaged in rebuilding peace in Lebanon, Turkey among them."

  "I appeal once more to the vigilance of the international community, that it not abandon its responsibilities, but make every effort to promote dialogue among all parties involved, which alone can guarantee respect for others, while safeguarding legitimate interests and rejecting recourse to violence."

  Pope Benedict then highlighted how "the Turkish Constitution recognizes every citizen's right to freedom of worship and freedom of conscience.  The civil authorities of every democratic country are duty bound to guarantee the effective freedom of all believers and to permit them to organize freely the life of their religious communities.  Naturally it is my hope that believers, whichever religious community they belong to, will continue to benefit from these rights, since I am certain that religious liberty is a fundamental expression of human liberty and that the active presence of religions in society is a source of progress and enrichment for all.  This assumes, of course, that religions do not seek to exercise direct political power, as that is not their province, and it also assumes that they utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of religion.

  "In this regard," he added, "I appreciate the work of the Catholic community in Turkey, small in number but deeply committed to contributing all it can to the country's development, notably by educating the young, and by building peace and harmony among all citizens."

  The Pope again stressed the need for dialogue which, he said, "must enable different religions to come to know one another better and to respect one another, in order to work for the fulfillment of man's noblest aspirations, in search of God and in search of happiness."

  He reiterated his "great esteem for Muslims," and he encouraged them "to continue to work together, in mutual respect, to promote the dignity of every human being and the growth of a society where personal freedom and care for others provide peace and serenity for all."

  "Assuredly, recognition of the positive role of religions within the fabric of society can and must impel us to explore more deeply their knowledge of man and to respect his dignity, by placing him at the center of political, economic, cultural and social activity.  Our world must come to realize that all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and they must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect."

  The Church, he said, is committed "to serve the cause of humanity," and he added: "I would be failing in this fundamental obligation if I did not remind you of the need always to place human dignity at the very heart of our concerns. The world is experiencing an extraordinary development of science and technology, with almost immediate consequences for medicine, agriculture and food production, but also for the communication of knowledge; this process must not lack direction or a human point of reference, when it relates to birth, education, manner of life or work, of old age, or death.

  "I sincerely hope," he concluded, "that the good relations between nations, which it is your task to serve, may also contribute increasingly to the genuine growth of humanity, created in the image of God.  Such a noble goal requires the contribution of all.  For this reason the Catholic Church intends to renew its co-operation with the Orthodox Church and I hope that my forthcoming meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Fanar will effectively serve this objective."
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VATICAN CITY, NOV 28, 2006 (VIS) - At 4.30 p.m. local time today, Benedict XVI travelled by car to the "Diyanet," Turkey's presidency for religious affairs where he met with Ali Bardokoglu, president of that department, and with various Turkish Muslims leaders, among them the Grand Mufti of Ankara and the Grand Mufti of Istanbul.

  The Pope began his English-language talk to them by greeting "all the Muslims in Turkey with particular esteem and affectionate regard." He also recalled how Turkey "is very dear to Christians: many of the earliest Church communities were founded here and grew to maturity, inspired by the preaching of the Apostles, particularly St. Paul and St. John. ... This noble land has also seen a remarkable flowering of Islamic civilization in the most diverse fields, including its literature and art, as well as its institutions. There are so many Christian and Muslim monuments that bear witness to Turkey's glorious past," in which "you rightly take pride."

  Benedict XVI then went on to explain how he had set out for Turkey "with the same sentiments as those expressed by my predecessor Blessed John XXIII, when he came here as Archbishop Giuseppe Roncalli, to fulfil the office of papal representative to Istanbul: '... I love the Turks, I appreciate the natural qualities of these people who have their own place reserved in the march of civilization'." Pope Benedict also reiterated the words of John Paul II, who visited the country in 1979: 'I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together, for the benefit of all men, peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.'

  Such questions, Pope Benedict continued, "impel us to carry forward our dialogue as a sincere exchange between friends. ... Christians and Muslims, following their respective religions, point to the truth of the sacred character and dignity of the person.  This is the basis of our mutual respect and esteem, this is the basis for cooperation in the service of peace between nations and peoples."

  "Christians and Muslims belong to the family of those who believe in the one God and who, according to their respective traditions, trace their ancestry to Abraham. This human and spiritual unity in our origins and our destiny impels us to seek a common path. ... As men and women of religion, we are challenged by the widespread longing for justice, development, solidarity, freedom, security, peace, defense of life, protection of the environment and of the resources of the earth. This is because we too, while respecting the legitimate autonomy of temporal affairs, have a specific contribution to offer in the search for proper solutions to these pressing questions."

  "Above all," he added, "we can offer a credible response to the question which emerges clearly from today's society, ... the question about the meaning and purpose of life, for each individual and for humanity as a whole. We are called to work together, so as to help society to open itself to the transcendent, giving Almighty God His rightful place.  The best way forward is via authentic dialogue between Christians and Muslims, based on truth and inspired by a sincere wish to know one another better, respecting differences and recognizing what we have in common."

  "As an illustration of the fraternal respect with which Christians and Muslims can work together, I would like to quote some words addressed by Pope Gregory VII in 1076 to a Muslim prince in North Africa who had acted with great benevolence towards the Christians under his jurisdiction. Pope Gregory spoke of the particular charity that Christians and Muslims owe to one another 'because we believe in one God, albeit in a different manner, and because we praise Him and worship Him every day as the Creator and Ruler of the world.'

  "Freedom of religion, institutionally guaranteed and effectively respected in practice, both for individuals and communities, constitutes for all believers the necessary condition for their loyal contribution to the building up of society, in an attitude of authentic service, especially towards the most vulnerable and the most poor."

  The Pope completed his address by giving thanks to God "for this happy occasion that brings us together in His name," and expressed the hope that Christians and Muslims "may come to know one another better, strengthening the bonds of affection between us in our common wish to live together in harmony, peace and mutual trust."

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