Pope’s visit to Turkey: Preparations for a historic visit

The last week of November 2006 -28/11 until 01/12- will be marked by the historic visit of the Pope in Turkey (1) . After years of preparations, negotiations and disagreements, the Pope will head to Turkey as a head of state. At a time when the accession negotiations between European Union and Turkey are in a very delicate point, the visit of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is a crucial step into testing Turkey’s posture in the Western world, as well as an opportunity for the Vatican to highlight its influential role in the European affairs.

The Pope will be accompanied by a numerous and of high esteem entourage. A first companion will be Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone  who is the Secretary of the Vatican state, i.e the Prime Minister (2). He is a personal appointment of Pontiff and he became a Secretary on 15/09/2006. He has collaborated closely with the Pope for over 10 years. In the prospective journey to Turkey he will have the task of managing the meetings held with Turkish officials, as well as the visit with the Ecumenical Eastern Orthodox Patriarch. His profound understanding of Theological issues and his experience in dealing with conflict social and international affairs; will prove to be invaluable in this visit.

A second important companion of the Pope in his visit to Turkey is Cardinal Roger Echegaray (3) . He is a French nationality Cardinal, born in 1922 and he is one of the most senior members of the Cardinal College, as well as, a revered persona in the Catholic world. Amongst his many positions over the past decades, he was the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. From that chair he studied, traveled and held talks with officials from many countries, including Turkey. Moreover this Cardinal is well aware of the issues concerning the Orthodox Patriarch and personally knows the current head, along with many leading figures of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

A third Cardinal to be with the Pope in Turkey is the German Walter Kasper (4), who is currently the chairman of the Pontifical Council for the Christian Union and also a co-chairman in the Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox one.  Therefore he has all the necessary credentials and the knowledge to examine all relative issues during the residence of the Papal delegation in Turkey.

Other officials to travel with the Pontiff in Turkey are: Cardinal Ignace Mousa-Daoud (5)  and Cardinal Paul Paupard(6) , President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Moreover the Interior Minister of the Vatican and Archbishop, Leonardo Santri (7)  will follow the Pope’s visit as well.

Furthermore Padre Frederico Lombardi (8), the head of the Vatican press office will go to Turkey also and will have the delicate task of managing the information flow before, at and after the Pope’s visit. He is a Jesuit and a person known for his open-mind and flexibility in dealing with the stressful press release affairs. He will be the head responsible with the representation of the delegation with hundreds of journalists from Turkey and abroad.
Continuing the Pope will be accompanied by Bishop Pierro Marini(9)  who is considered to be as the leading liturgist of the Vatican and will handle all the sensitive matters regarding the protocol of His visit. Those include the way the Pope is going to enter the church of St. George –The Orthodox Church- , how the Pontiff is going to seat by the Orthodox Patriarch Vartholomeos, and how the ceremony of eulogizing the crowd by the two heads of Churches; is going to be prepared by the Roman Catholic side. His role is very valuable judging from the different liturgies the two Churches have, and any kind of ceremonial common practice needs mastership skills in order to be performed without misunderstandings.
Moreover Professor Mario Agnes (10) , will be a part of the Pontifical associates in Turkey. He is the director of the newspaper L’osservatore Romano (11)  and he will be assigned of the general cover of the visit. He will bring along the necessary crew of technicians, photographers and other.

The Pope’s entourage includes two members of the Swiss Guard (12)  , two doctors, the general director of the Vatican police, (Vigilanza -Papal Gendarmes) and four servicemen of that unit.
Lastly the personal Papal secretary along with his aides will travel to Turkey and keep the minutes of that once in a century journey.
Officially the Pope is hosted by the Ecumenical Eastern Orthodox Patriarch. This trip will be the first time a Roman Catholic pope has made such a visit since 1979. It could go a long way toward healing a schism that has existed for nearly 1,000 years. The Orthodox Patriarch recently stated that “”We are in very good relationships with the present pope, Benedict XVI,” during a news conference at the Westin Innsbruck Resort.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has been headquartered in present-day Turkey since the fourth century A.D., when Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire Eastwards; to a city he named Constantinople. The city remained the single worldwide center of Christianity the Great Schism in 1054, which resulted in the creation of two separate Christian centers at that time, Constantinople and Rome.
The Patriarchate has existed throughout the Ottoman Empire, the Byzantium Empire and the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Today, however, there are only about 5,000 Orthodox Christians in Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim.
The patriarch invited the pope during Benedict’s enthronement ceremony last year, and numerous diplomatic culminations developed between the Vatican and Turkey in order to agree for the details of the visit. Moreover the recent remarks made by the Pope regarding the Muslim’s role in history (13), through the scriptures of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologos; has caused a great stir in Turkey and even threats were heard towards the Vatican and the Pope himself (14).  Nevertheless the journey seems imminent and will become one of the crucial steps in bringing closer the Roma Catholic Church and the Eastern Church despite their theological differences. Since the visit of the late Pope John Paul II in Athens in 2001(15), the dialogue between the heads of the two Christian denominations, has greatly improved and deepened. The current state of the world that is being characterized by racial, religious and social strife is more than certain that it needs pious and pioneering Church leaders that will be able to comprehend, analyze and propose constructive methods in healing world’s society’s malfunctions. Last but not least it is more than certain that Europe will have yet another historical milestone after the visit concludes and the first encounter by the two Heads of Church comes to an end, hopefully with a renewed interest into the continent’s great challenges of our era.

References:
1) www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6054958.stm 
 
2) www.cardinalrating.com/cardinal_12__article_1892.htm

3) www.cardinalrating.com/cardinal_139__article_3183.htm
 
4) www.bc.edu/bc_org/research/cjl/kasper_biographyl.htm
 
5) www.198.62.75.5/www1/ofm/cic/BULL416.pdf
 
6) www.wpfdc.com/sections/id/2

7) www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bsandri.html

8) www.oecumene.radiovaticana.org/por/Articolo.asp?c=54698

9) www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/word0620.htm
 
10) www.it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Agnes
 
11) www.vatican.va/news_services/or/home_ita.html
 
12) www.vatican.va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/index.htm
 
13) www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5346480.stm
 
14) www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/09/17/pope.islam

15) www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/mayweb-only/5-7-34.0.html
The article was originally published on www.worldsecuritynetwork.com, Ioannis Michaletos -All Rights Reserved-.

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