'Grace to you and peace...'
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
Considering the papal visit to Turkey, which is in focus of the Church at the moment, I would like to emphasize Benedict XVI's meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Archbishop of Constantinople. It is a very important event as far as progress in ecumenical dialogue is concerned. There is a correlation between the meeting and the Gospel, the Apostolic College, whose member was St Peter, then the Head of the Church, and St Andrew, Peter's brother. The visit refers to St Andrew in a special way since he became the patron of the Orthodox Church. The Apostolic College is connected with Peter but the College greatly respects St Andrew and is proud of him as Peter's brother.
Today, when we look at the universal Church, on the one hand we can see it as whole Christianity and on the other hand we can see it as the great Christian families. The Catholic Church belongs to one of these families and the Orthodox Church has played a significant role in the history of Christianity. Throughout ages this Church shattered unity and became an independent Church with its own canonical, legal and liturgical structures. Therefore, the meeting between Benedict XVI and the Patriarch of Constantinople is the evidence that both heads of the Churches care about their mutual contact and dialogue.
For ages the Church has formed her theological and canonical visions. Lord Jesus left us his Gospel but he did not leave a theological doctrine. After his Resurrection people were to answer many questions, for example: Who was Christ? In what way was he God and in what way was he man? How was his divinity and humanity connected? The same concerns the teaching about Jesus' Mother. It was the Council of Ephesus in AD 325 that defined the dogma of Mary's virginity. The land that Benedict XVI walked is a very important land for the history of Christianity. This is the land of the Apostles, the land of Mary. The early Christianity originated to a considerable extent on the land. It was much later, in the 7th century that another religion created by Muhammad prevailed and Christianity was eliminated from those lands. Religious conquests played a considerable role in spreading Islam in the whole world. At the beginning of the 20th century Turkey became a secular republic (Atartük, 1923) and even small Christian communities could not function. Today we are treading this land; literary we are treading on the relics of Christianity.
The Christian patriarchates: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, then Rome and finally Constantinople, which were organised in the big metropolitans throughout ages, are important. Some of them strengthened their positions. Rome has become the capital of western Christianity. Constantinople was of great importance as the capital of eastern Christianity. Today one speaks about another Christian capital - Moscow, with Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Therefore, we have a vision of Christianity, which has as it were three big branches, three big Churches. Naturally, particular Churches are not monoliths. We can see, for example, great richness of the Eastern Churches, which among other things differ in the forms of celebrating services and the forms of canonical structures. The Catholic Church, based on the primacy of St Peter, consists of the Latin Church and many Catholic Eastern Churches.
When we look at the visit of Benedict XV to Turkey we must admit that it has been extremely important for the dialogue between the great religions of the world. But looking at it from the human perspective this visit has been very difficult and required great courage and even heroism. As we have seen the visit was peaceful and had certain deepened character, which was not closed within the limits defined by the unfriendly media. The Holy Father as the Shepherd of the universal Church, through his great humility, his love for the truth, his extraordinary moral sensitivity and his sensitivity of faith as well as his excellent sense of the reality, reached all people of good will and perhaps he changed the attitude of the media, which at present seem to be more friendly and objective. Let us pray for the world so that it would notice Benedict XVI's work, which is first of all the work of Jesus Christ. This is the work of building unity and peace in the world, in the name of God's love. May us all understand this and as Jesus wanted, may us be one.