Friday, December 1, 2006

Deo Gratias

The nice thing about being an amateur is that you can always fall back on the professionals. I was going to write a summary of Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic visit to Turkey, but then I read Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' summary of the trip, its ecumenical implications and its implications for relations with Islam. He also discusses how the visit of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Rome earlier in November ties in with all these goings on. Therefore, I encourage you to follow the link to First Things' On the Square blog. Fr. Neuhaus provides further links to stories of interest. I am always keen to read George Weigel. While I frequently disagree with Weigel, he is an insightful and intelligent commentator who always gives one much to ponder and provides a perspective worth considering.

Also worth reading is Pope Benedict's homily in Ephesus at his Mass Before the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evì. Unlike masses during other Apostolic Visits, like his visit to Germany in September, at which hundreds of thousands and even millions attend Papal masses, this mass was small, with perhaps 300 people in attendance. Our Holy Father's words were so compassionate and comforting to an embattled Christian community.

"Another of my Predecessors was in this country not as Pope, but as the Papal Representative, from January 1935 to December 1944, Blessed John XXIII, Angelo Roncalli, whose memory still enkindles great devotion and affection. He very much esteemed and admired the Turkish people. Here I would like to quote an entry in his Journal of a Soul: 'I love the Turks; I appreciate the natural qualities of these people who have their own place reserved in the march of civilization' (pp. 233-4). He also left to the Church and the world the legacy of his Christian optimism, rooted in deep faith and constant union with God. In that same spirit, I turn to this nation and, in a special way, to the 'little flock' of Christ living in its midst, in order to offer a word of encouragement and to manifest the affection of the whole Church. With great love I greet all of you here present, the faithful of Izmir, Mersin, Iskenderun and Antakya, and others from different parts of the world, as well as those who could not take part in this celebration but are spiritually united with us."

I can tell you that I know many of this "little flock," not the least of which are the Catholics at St. George's parish at Trabezon, Fr. Santoro's little flock, as well as the small community at Antakya (i.e., Antioch- if you click on the map to the left it enlarges to readable size), where St. Peter was the first bishop and where Jesus' disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11,26), quite a few of whom travelled to Ephesus, are so heartened by the Holy Father's visit and the promise of his constant prayers. I almost cry with joy when I think of how much his visit, despite all the predicable media illiteracy about both its purpose and its fruits, means to the Church in Anatolia.

Of course, as per usual, Rocco over at Whispers leads the charge by providing an English translation of the Pope's homily at Holy Spirit Cathedral in Istanbul, a part of which is below:

"Gathered this morning in this house of prayer consecrated to the Lord, how can we not evoke the other fine image that Saint Paul uses in speaking of the Church, the image of the building whose stones are closely fitted together to form a single structure, and whose cornerstone, on which everything else rests, is Christ? He is the source of the new life given us by the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Saint John has just proclaimed it: 'out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'. This gushing water, this living water which Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman, was seen by the prophets Zechariah and Ezechiel issuing forth from the side of the Temple, so that it could make fruitful the waters of the Dead Sea: a marvellous image of the promise of life that God has always made to his people and that Jesus came to fulfill. In a world where men are so loath to share the earth’s goods and there is a dramatic shortage of water, this good so precious for the life of the body, the Church discovers that she possesses an even greater treasure. As the Body of Christ, she has been charged to proclaim his Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), transmitting to the men and women of our time the Good News which not only illuminates but overturns their lives, even to the point of conquering death itself.

As this Friday comes to a close, let us give thanks to God for all we have been given, for this day on which recall the great love shown us by God in the sacrifice of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ on the Cross. We give thanks for the success of the Holy Father's Apostolic journey to the Republic of Turkey, by recalling the closing verse of the hymn:

"All praise and thanks to God, the Father now be given/The Son and Spirit blest, who reigns in Highest Heaven/Eternal Triune God, whom earth and heaven adore/For thus it was is now and shall be evermore."

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