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Papal Address to Turkey's Religious Affairs Director

11/30/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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We "Belong to the Family of Those Who Believe in the One God"

ANKARA, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered during his meeting today with Ali Bardakoglu, chief of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directories.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Muslim community, among whom were the grand muftis of Ankara and Istanbul, as well as cardinals and bishops who are part of the papal entourage.

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I am grateful for the opportunity to visit this land, so rich in history and culture, to admire its natural beauty, to witness for myself the creativity of the Turkish people, and to appreciate your ancient culture and long history, both civil and religious.

As soon as I arrived in Turkey, I was graciously received by the President of the Republic and the Government Representative. It was for me also a great pleasure to greet and meet his Excellency the Prime Minister Erdogan at the airport. In greeting them, I was pleased to express my profound esteem for all the people of this great country and to pay my respects at the tomb of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

I now have the joy of meeting you, the President of the Religious Affairs Directorate. I offer you my sentiments of respect, in recognition of your great responsibilities, and I extend my greetings to all the religious leaders of Turkey, especially the Grand Muftis of Ankara and Istanbul. In your person, Mr President, I greet all the Muslims in Turkey with particular esteem and affectionate regard.

Your country 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 Saint Paul and Saint John. The tradition has come down to us that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, lived at Ephesus, in the home of the Apostle Saint 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. You rightly take pride in these, preserving them for the admiration of the ever increasing number of visitors who flock here.

I have set out upon my visit to Turkey with the same sentiments as those expressed by my predecessor Blessed John XXIII, when he came here as Archbishop Giuseppe Roncalli, to fulfill the office of Papal Representative in Istanbul: "I am fond of the Turks, to whom the Lord has sent me … I love the Turks, I appreciate the natural qualities of these people who have their own place reserved in the march of civilization" (Journal of a Soul, pp. 228, 233-4).

For my own part, I also wish to highlight the qualities of the Turkish population. Here I make my own the words of my immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, who said on the occasion of his visit 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'" (Address to the Catholic Community in Ankara, 28 November 1979).

These questions have continued to present themselves throughout the intervening years; indeed, as I indicated at the very beginning of my Pontificate, they impel us to carry forward our dialogue as a sincere exchange between friends. When I had the joy of meeting members of Muslim communities last year in Cologne, on the occasion of World Youth Day, I reiterated the need to approach our interreligious and intercultural dialogue with optimism and hope. It cannot be reduced to an optional extra: on the contrary, it is "a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Address to representatives of some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005).

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, the dearest wish of all believers and all people of good will.

For more than forty years, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council has inspired and guided the approach taken by the Holy See and by local Churches throughout the world to relations with the followers of other religions. Following the Biblical tradition, the Council teaches that the entire human race shares a common origin and a common destiny: God, our Creator and the goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Christians and Muslims belong to the family of those who believe in the one God and who, according to their respective traditions, ...

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