Nov 27, 2006

Why the Pope is in Turkey

One of my children and Mrs. M from the nursing home both have asked me why the Pope is traveling to Turkey, considering the physical danger of his travels. I've already described one possible reason in a previous post.

The official reasons for the Papal visit are described in the Vatican communication on the Significance of Benedict XVI's Trip to Turkey: (1) a pastoral journey; (2) an ecumenical journey; and (3) a journey under the banner of interreligious dialogue. The basis for interreligious dialogue with Moslems is stated to be the Declaration Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) issued by the second Vatican Council. Here is what Nostra Aetate says about followers of Islam:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

Nostra Aetate is not one of my favorite documents, although I agree that the Pope and Moslems should "work sincerely for mutual understanding." It is easy for Westerners to learn about Islam through the Web or the Koran--just google 'Islam' or go to a bookstore or library. Unfortunately, computers, libraries, and bookstores with Bibles or Christian writings are not freely available to Moslems in Arab lands. Reciprocity of information sharing simply doesn't exist and is not likely to happen.

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