Saturday, December 02, 2006

More Praise for Pope's Trip to Turkey

In a world starving for intelligent leadership--it sure is nice (and has been over the past 27 years) to have someone at the top of the Church who is both intelligent and a leader--not a follower.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"He came here with a lot of baggage, and I didn't know whether he would be able to overcome that," said Binnaz Toprak, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bogazici University.

"But in the end the pope presented himself not only as a religious leader but also a diplomat," Toprak said. "The Turkish public will be pleased that we made a nice show of Islamic tolerance and Turkish hospitality, and [the pope] gave an image to the world that he is in favor of dialogue."

The pope's effort to repair relations with the Islamic world was the focus of most of the media interest, but the trip to Turkey was originally conceived as an instrument for re-energizing the dialogue with Eastern Orthodox churches. Begun during the papacy of Pope Paul VI in the 1960s, this is seen by the Vatican as a long-term project to resolve a very old problem.

The split between the two ancient branches of Christianity, the Great Schism, occurred in 1054 after years of disputes. Over the centuries, culture and geography have widened the rift.

Not about theology'

"The divide between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy is not about theology. The differences are coming from historical memories, and you can't overcome those by sitting down at a table and talking," Wauck said. "You have to build a different set of historical memories, and this has to be done over a long period of time."

Pope Benedict, in one of last week's meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew, called the divisions among Christians a "scandal to the world"--the Vatican's strongest words yet on the subject--and pledged to work toward full reconciliation.

The pope and the patriarch were together for at least a few hours on three of the four days the pope spent in Turkey. They embraced, they celebrated the liturgy together and they embraced some more, all part of the process of building a new set of historical memories.

And in the process, a different side of a shy and sometimes stern German pontiff was revealed.

Noting Pope Benedict's prolific literary output, his love of language and his "carefully crafted Teutonic paragraphs," John Allen, the Vatican specialist for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote that the Turkey pilgrimage could "mark the moment the wordsmith pope learned to talk in pictures."