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VATICAN's INTERFAITH DIALOGUE
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Pope urges "authentic" interfaith dialogue

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"Religions are for peace and reconciliation -- they should not be interpreted otherwise," said Benedict. (Reuters)

ANKARA — Asserting that Christians and Muslims belong to the same family of souls that believes in one God and trading conciliatory gestures with Turkish officials on his first Apostolic visit to a Muslim country, Pope Benedict XVI called on Tuesday, November 28, for "authentic" inter-faith dialogue.

"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," the pontiff said, addressing Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

Starting a four-day visit to secular but largely Muslim Turkey, the pope tried to ease anger over his perceived criticism of Islam in a recent lecture quotes, when he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) brought "things only evil and inhuman."

This time, Pope Benedict quoted 11th-century Pope Gregory VII after a north African Muslim prince "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'," he said.

After laying a wreath at the mausoleum of Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Pope Benedict had a meeting with Ali Bardakoglu, Turkey's top religious official.

"Religions are for peace and reconciliation -- they should not be interpreted otherwise," he said during a 15-minute public chat with Bardakoglu.

Bardakoglu, who had accused Benedict of harboring "hatred in his heart" for Muslims, also agreed on the necessity of dialogue.

"We too are for dialogue between religions," he said. "But this should have a solid basis."

Bardakoglu slammed the "rising Islamophobia" in the West blaming it on a "mentality that Islam, with its history and origins, contains and encourages violence, that it was spread... by the sword, that Muslims are potentially violent."

In his first visit to a Muslim country, pope Benedict will be the second pope known to have visited a mosque, following John Paul II's trip to the Omeyyades mosque in Damascus.

Euro Turkey


Erdogan said the pontiff backs Turkey's EU membership bid.
Launching a charm offensive over multi fronts, Pope Benedict tried to clear his reputation as an anti-Ankara pope, backing Turkey's bid to join the European Union in a striking reversal of personal opinion.

"I asked the pope for his support on our road to the European Union," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after a 20-minute meeting with the pontiff.

"He told me, 'We want Turkey to be part of the EU'".

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said although the Holy See has "no specific powers" concerning Turkey's EU candidacy, it sees this as "positive" and "encourages... Turkey's integration into Europe on the basis of common values and principles."

Erdogan, who had criticized the pope's anti-Islam remarks and until the last minute was not scheduled to meet him, personally greeted the pontiff as he stepped off his plane at Ankara's Esenboga Airport.

The Turkish premier said he had laid to rest any hard feelings he may have harbored.

"We will always look to the future. We cannot build our future on hate and antagonism.

"I find the pope's visit to 95 percent Muslim Turkey timely and important," he added.

Known as the "anti-Turkish pope", Benedict has said that Ankara's EU membership would be a "a grave error... against the tide of history" when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Ratzinger, elected pope in April 2005, said Turkey should seek its future in an association of Islamic nations, not with the EU, which has Christian roots.

The EU and Turkey officially kickstarted on Monday, June 12, the long-awaited accession talks, the most important cornerstone of membership process.

Ankara won an EU green light last October to start membership talks, albeit being told they would last at least a decade.

Turkey has been trying to join the European club since the 1960s.

Christian Unity

A main purpose of the pontiff's visit is to meet Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, in the latest display of rapprochement between the two estranged branches of Christianity.

The meetings confirm that "Orthodox and Catholics are committed to the goal of unity and diversity... (and) healing the memories of the past which we all carry as a burden," Monsignor Brian Farrell, a member of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity said.

Archbishop Demetrios of America, who represented the Orthodox, hailed "a continuous progress in reconciliation between the two churches."

Both officials, however, agreed that the process would be difficult and take time.

"It will not be easy, it will not be a short dialogue, it will not happen this week or next year," Farrell said.

"It needs a long period of reflection... but I do not doubt we are on a good track."

The two major branches of Christianity split in 1054 over differences in opinion on the power of the papacy.

Unlike the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians lack a single leader and maintain a loose family of national churches, based mostly in Russia, Greece and the Balkans, with diaspora churches scattered around the world.


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VATICAN's INTERFAITH DIALOGUE - by moeenyaseen - 11-28-2006, 10:46 PM

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