Benedict XVI visited the 'Diyanet,' Turkey's presidency for religious affairs yesterday, 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 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 he 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 thanking 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." Source: VIS
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