Pope Francis' Visit to Turkey November 2014
General Audience: On the Apostolic Visit to Turkey
"I thank God for the blessing of my recent pilgrimage to Turkey, and I pray that it will contribute to an ever more fruitful dialogue and relationship with our Orthodox and Muslim brothers and sisters."

VATICAN CITY, December 03, 2014 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's catechesis during his weekly General Audience this morning in St. Peter's Square. Before his arrival, the Holy Father visited the sick who were watching the audience from the Paul VI Audience Hall due to the bad weather. The following are the Pope's words to them:

Good morning!

Today you are here because the weather is a bit ugly, and inside here it doesn't rain, Thank God. Then you can see the audience on the big screen. Thank you so much for your visit and I ask you to pray for me.

[The Pope approaches them and greets them]

Now you will stay here, follow the audience on the big screen, without the rain, here, calmly. Now we will pray to Our Lady to ask for Her blessing.

Hail Mary…


And let us prepare ourselves for Christmas, thinking of the coming of Jesus. I hope that Jesus comes to each of your hearts, and may He bless you and give you strength to go forward. Pray for me! Thank you!

* * *

The following is the translation of the Pope's catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

It doesn't look like a really good day, the weather is a bit ugly. But you are very brave to be here smiling on this rainy morning, and we go forward! This audience will take place in two difference places, as we do when it rains: here in the square and then there are the sick in Paul VI Hall. I have already met them, and greeted them. They are following the audience through the big screen because they are sick and cannot be under the rain. Let us greet them with an applause.

Today I would like to share with you some things on my pilgrimage last Friday to Sunday in Turkey. As I requested that it be prepared and supported by prayer, I now invite you to thank the Lord for its realization, in the hope that fruits of dialogue will flow be it in our relations with our Orthodox brothers, be it in those with Muslims, be it in the path to peace among peoples.

First of all, I would like to renew my expression of gratitude to the President of the Republic, to the Prime Minister, to the President for Religious Affairs and to the other Authorities who received me with respect and guaranteed the good order of the events. This requires a lot of work and they did so gladly.

I fraternally thank the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Turkey, the President of the Episcopal Conference, who is very good, for their commitment, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, for his cordial welcome. Blessed Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, who both went to Turkey, and Saint John XXIII, who was Papal Delegate in that Nation, protected my pilgrimage from Heaven, which took place eight years after that of my Predecessor Benedict XVI. That land is dear to every Christian, especially for having given birth to the Apostle Paul, for having hosted the first seven Councils, and for the presence, close to Ephesus, of “Mary’s house.” Tradition tells us that Our Lady lived there, after the coming of the Holy Spirit.

On the first day of my apostolic journey I greeted the Authorities of the country, the great majority Muslim, but whose Constitution affirms the secularism of the State. And with the authorities I spoke about violence. It is, in fact, it is forgetting God, and not His glorification, that generates violence. Therefore, I insisted on the importance that Christians and Muslims be committed together to solidarity, to peace and justice, affirming that every State must assure to its citizens and the religious communities of real freedom of worship.

Today before greeting the sick, I was with a group of Christians and Muslims who are at a meeting organized by the dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, under the guidance of Cardinal Tauran, and they also have expressed this desire to continue in this fraternal dialogue among Catholics, Christians and Muslims.

On the second day, I visited several places- symbol of the different religious faiths present in Turkey. I did so hearing in my heart the invocation of the Lord, God of Heaven and Earth, merciful Father of the whole of humanity. The center of the day was the Eucharistic Celebration, which gathered in the Cathedral pastors and faithful of different Catholic rites present in Turkey. We were also assisted by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchal Vicar, the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan and Protestant members. Together we invoked the Holy Spirit, He who brings about the unity of the Church: unity in faith, unity in charity, unity in interior cohesion. In the richness of their traditions and articulations, the People of God are called to allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, in a constant attitude of openness, of docility and of obedience. In our path of ecumenical dialogue and also in our unity, of our Catholic Church, it is the Holy Spirit that does everything. We are supposed to let Him do it, to receive and follow His inspirations.

The third and final day, the feast of Saint Andrew, offered the ideal context to consolidate fraternal relations between the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Church founded, according to tradition, by the Apostle Andrew, brother of Simon Peter. With His Holiness Bartholomew I, I renewed the mutual commitment to continue on the path towards the re-establishment of full communion between Catholics and Orthodox. Together we signed a Joint Declaration, a further step on this path. It was particularly significant that this act happened at the end of the solemn Liturgy of the Feast of Saint Andrew, which I attended with great joy, and which was followed by the double Blessing imparted by the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Bishop of Rome. Prayer, in fact, is the basis for all fruitful ecumenical dialogue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who, as I said, is the one that makes unity.

The last meeting – which was both beautiful and painful - was with a group of refugee youth, guests of the Salesians. It was very important for me to meet with some refugees from the areas of war of the Middle East, be it to express to them my closeness and that of the Church, be it to stress the value of hospitality, in which Turkey is also very committed. I would like to thank Turkey once again for receiving so many refugees and I sincerely thank the Salesians of Istanbul. These Salesians work with refugees, they are wonderful. I also met with other priests, a German Jesuit and others who work with refugees. But that Salesian Oratory for refugees is something beautiful, it is a hidden work. I sincerely thank all those people who work with refugees. And we pray for all refugees and displaced persons, so that causes of this painful wound may be removed.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Almighty and Merciful God continue to protect the Turkish people, its rulers and representatives of the different religions. May they be able to build together a future of peace, so that Turkey is able to represent a place of peaceful coexistence between religions and different cultures. In addition we pray, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that the Holy Spirit will render this apostolic journey fruitful and foster in the Church missionary fervor to proclaim to all peoples, in respect and in fraternal dialogue, that the Lord Jesus is Truth, Peace and Love. He alone is Lord. Thank you.


* * *


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I thank God for the blessing of my recent pilgrimage to Turkey, and I pray that it will contribute to an ever more fruitful dialogue and relationship with our Orthodox and Muslim brothers and sisters. Turkey is a land dear to us for its rich Christian history. Religious belief has an important place in the life of this predominantly Muslim nation. In my visit to Ankara, I wished to stress the importance of ensuring its free exercise by all, and the need for Christians and Muslims to work together in promoting solidarity, peace and justice. In Istanbul, at Mass with the Catholic faithful and the leaders of Turkey’s various Christian communities, we implored the Holy Spirit’s continued guidance and help for our efforts to grow in unity and fidelity. On Sunday, at the solemn liturgy for the feast of Saint Andrew, I joined Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in signing a Joint Declaration reaffirming our commitment to the restoration of full communion. I ask you to join me in praying for these intentions and for the Church’s zeal in proclaiming, in respectful and fraternal dialogue, Christ’s message of truth, peace and love.


Pope Francis' Address to the President of Religious Affairs in Ankara
"As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights."

VATICAN CITY, November 28, 2014  - Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the Holy Father's address to the President of the "Diyanet", (Religious Affairs), Prof. Mehmet Gormez, in Ankara, Turkey. 

* * *

Mr President,

Religious and Civil Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to meet with you today in the course of my visit to your country. I thank the President of this distinguished office for his cordial invitation which affords me the opportunity to share these moments with political and religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian.

It is a tradition that Popes, when they visit different countries as part of their mission, meet also with the leaders and members of various religions. Without this openness to encounter and dialogue, a Papal Visit would not fully correspond to its purposes. And so I have wished to meet you, following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors. In this context, I am pleased to recall in a special way Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to this very same place in November 2006.

Good relations and dialogue between religious leaders have, in fact, acquired great importance. They represent a clear message addressed to their respective communities which demonstrates that mutual respect and friendship are possible, notwithstanding differences. Such friendship, as well as being valuable in itself, becomes all the more meaningful and important in a time of crises such as our own, crises which in some parts of the world are disastrous for entire peoples.

Wars cause the death of innocent victims and bring untold destruction, interethnic and interreligious tensions and conflicts, hunger and poverty afflicting hundreds of millions of people, and inflict damage on the natural environment – air, water and land.

Especially tragic is the situation in the Middle East, above all in Iraq and Syria. Everyone suffers the consequences of these conflicts, and the humanitarian situation is unbearable. I think of so many children, the sufferings of so many mothers, of the elderly, of those displaced and of all refugees, subject to every form of violence. Particular concern arises from the fact that, owing mainly to an extremist and fundamentalist group, entire communities, especially – though not exclusively – Christians and Yazidis, have suffered and continue to suffer barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity. They have been forcibly evicted from their homes, having to leave behind everything to save their lives and preserve their faith. This violence has also brought damage to sacred buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural patrimony, as if trying to erase every trace, every memory of the other.

As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights. Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace. The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.

As well as denouncing such violations, we must also work together to find adequate solutions. This requires the cooperation of all: governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of goodwill. In a unique way, religious leaders can offer a vital contribution by expressing the values of their respective traditions. We, Muslims and Christians, are the bearers of spiritual treasures of inestimable worth. Among these we recognize some shared elements, though lived according to the traditions of each, such as the adoration of the All-Merciful God, reference to the Patriarch Abraham, prayer, almsgiving, fasting… elements which, when lived sincerely, can transform life and provide a sure foundation for dignity and fraternity. Recognizing and developing our common spiritual heritage – through interreligious dialogue – helps us to promote and to uphold moral values, peace and freedom in society (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Catholic Community in Ankara, 29 November 1979). The shared recognition of the sanctity of each human life is the basis of joint initiatives of solidarity, compassion, and effective help directed to those who suffer most. In this regard, I wish to express my appreciation for everything that the Turkish people, Muslims and Christians alike, are doing to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing their countries due to conflicts. This is a clear example of how we can work together to serve others, an example to be encouraged and maintained.

I wish also to express my satisfaction at the good relations which exist between the Diyanet and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. It is my earnest desire that these relations will continue and be strengthened for the good of all, so that every initiative which promotes authentic dialogue will offer a sign of hope to a world which so deeply needs peace, security and prosperity.

Mr President, I renew my gratitude to you and your colleagues for this meeting, which fills my heart with joy. I am grateful also to each one of you, for your presence and for your prayers which, in your kindness, you offer for me and my ministry. For my part, I assure you of my prayers. May the Lord grant us all his blessing.


Pope's Address to Turkish Authorities
"Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. "

VATICAN CITY, November 28, 2014  - Here below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' address given to the Turkish authorities this afternoon in Ankara, Turkey:


Mr President

Mr Prime Minister,

Distinguished Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilizations. It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures. This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of Saint Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church. It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus which a venerable tradition holds to be the "Home of Mary",the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years. It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations.

It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then Apostolic Delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council.

Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them.

There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.

To this end, it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.

The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.

How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.

Mr President, interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion.

Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can "reverse the trend" and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs.

Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.

What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.

Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.

May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!


Pope's Greeting to Journalists Aboard Flight to Ankara
"Your work is a support, a help and also a service to the world"

VATICAN CITY, November 28, 2014 - Here is a translation of the Pope's greetings to the journalists accompanying him on his Apostolic Trip to Turkey:

* * *

Father Lombardi [director of the Vatican press office]

Holy Father, thank you for coming to greet us at the beginning of this trip, for which we give you our best wishes. A trip that we know is demanding, be it because of the area to which we are going, be it because of ecumenical relations, inter-religious relations … Therefore, it is brief but very intense and very important. We accompany you with our prayers, with our care and with our support, for what we will be able to do, also as reporters.

As you can see, we are a good little group: there are 65 of us on this trip, representatives of different countries, of different media. As usual, it is somewhat mixed, seeking to take into account be it the media, be it the languages, and so on. Many are people you already know, who follow these trips faithfully. We also have two Turkish ladies accompanying us on this trip: Mrs. Esma Cakir, who greets you, and Mrs. Yasemin Taskin, who also greets you, and who will later be able to ask you questions on the return flight of course.

And we also have another occasion of celebration this morning: there is one of us, who is hiding there in the back, who is 62, in fact, today. It’s his birthday: Jean-Louis de La Vaissiere, and, along with you, we congratulate him.

And now, of course, I give you the microphone, if you would like to say something to us.

Pope Francis:

Good morning. I welcome you and thank you for your company on this trip, because your work is a support, a help and also a service to the world: a service to the world to make known this religious and humanitarian activity, because at this moment Turkey is a witness and offers help to so many refugees of the areas of conflict. I thank you for this service. We will meet again on the return trip for the press conference. Thank you so much and good stay.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you so much, Holy Father. And have a good trip. We will follow you with much attention.

On a trip such as this one, the presence on the flight is very important, because there are two stages and, therefore, they are practically the only journalists who will be present, be it at Ankara be it at Istanbul, to follow your trip close up. Therefore, they will have a very important role in information, and we want to assure you that they will do their best to collaborate with your ministry.

Thank you, Holy Father, and have a good trip.


Pope Francis' Address at Ecumenical Prayer Service in Phanar, Turkey
"In the words of the prophet Zechariah, the Lord gives us anew in this evening prayer, the foundation that sustains our moving forward from one day to the next, the solid rock upon which we advance together in joy and hope."

ISTANBUL, November 29, 2014  - Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the address given by Pope Francis at the Ecumenical Prayer in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Phanar, Turkey.

* * *

Your Holiness, my dear Brother,

Each evening brings a mixed feeling of gratitude for the day which is ending and of hope-filled trust as night falls. This evening my heart is full of gratitude to God who allows me to be here in prayer with Your Holiness and with this sister Church after an eventful day during my Apostolic Visit. At the same time my heart awaits the day which we have already begun liturgically: the Feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, Patron of this Church.

In the words of the prophet Zechariah, the Lord gives us anew in this evening prayer, the foundation that sustains our moving forward from one day to the next, the solid rock upon which we advance together in joy and hope. The foundation rock is the Lord’s promise: "Behold, I will save my people from the countries of the east and from the countries of the west… in faithfulness and in righteousness" (8:7.8).

Yes, my venerable and dear Brother Bartholomew, as I express my heartfelt "thank you" for your fraternal welcome, I sense that our joy is greater because its source is from beyond; it is not in us, not in our commitment, not in our efforts – that are certainly necessary – but in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness which lays the foundation for the reconstruction of his temple that is the Church (cf. Zech 8:9). "For there shall be a sowing of peace" (Zech 8:12); truly, a sowing of joy. It is the joy and the peace that the world cannot give, but which the Lord Jesus promised to his disciples and, as the Risen One, bestowed upon them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Andrew and Peter heard this promise; they received this gift. They were blood brothers, yet their encounter with Christ transformed them into brothers in faith and charity. In this joyful evening, at this prayer vigil, I want to emphasize this; they became brothers in hope. What a grace, Your Holiness, to be brothers in the hope of the Risen Lord! What a grace, and what a responsibility, to walk together in this hope, sustained by the intercession of the holy Apostles and brothers, Andrew and Peter! And to know that this shared hope does non deceive us because it is founded, not upon us or our poor efforts, but rather upon God’s faithfulness.

With this joyful hope, filled with gratitude and eager expectation, I extend to Your Holiness and to all present, and to the Church of Constantinople, my warm and fraternal best wishes on the Feast of your holy Patron.

And I ask you a favor: to bless me and the Church of Rome.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope Francis' Homily at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul
"The diversity of members and charisms is harmonized in the Spirit of Christ, whom the Father sent and whom he continues to send, in order to achieve unity among believers."

ISTANBUL, November 29, 2014  - Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the Pope's homily at the celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.

* * *

In the Gospel, Jesus shows himself to be the font from which those who thirst for salvation draw upon, as the Rock from whom the Father brings forth living waters for all who believe in him (cf. Jn 7:38). In openly proclaiming this prophecy in Jerusalem, Jesus heralds the gift of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive after his glorification, that is, after his death and resurrection (cf. v. 39).

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. He gives life, he brings forth different charisms which enrich the people of God and, above all, he creates unity among believers: from the many he makes one body, the Body of Christ. The Church’s whole life and mission depend on the Holy Spirit; he fulfils all things.

The profession of faith itself, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading, is only possible because it is prompted by the Holy Spirit: "No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3b). When we pray, it is because the Holy Spirit inspires prayer in our heart. When we break the cycle of our self-centredness, and move beyond ourselves and go out to encounter others, to listen to them and help them, it is the Spirit of God who impels us to do so. When we find within a hitherto unknown ability to forgive, to love someone who doesn’t love us in return, it is the Spirit who has taken hold of us. When we move beyond mere self-serving words and turn to our brothers and sisters with that tenderness which warms the heart, we have indeed been touched by the Holy Spirit.

It is true that the Holy Spirit brings forth different charisms in the Church, which at first glance, may seem to create disorder. Under his guidance, however, they constitute an immense richness, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity. Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring aboutunity. When we try to create diversity, but are closed within our own particular and exclusive ways of seeing things, we create division. When we try to create unity through our own human designs, we end up with uniformity and homogenization. If we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, however, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church.

The diversity of members and charisms is harmonized in the Spirit of Christ, whom the Father sent and whom he continues to send, in order to achieve unity among believers. The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior life. The Church and other Churches and ecclesial communities are called to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to remain always open, docile and obedient.

Ours is a hopeful perspective, but one which is also demanding. The temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit, because he takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us; he makes us get up and drives the Church forward. It is always easier and more comfortable to settle in our sedentary and unchanging ways. In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit in as much as she does not try to control or tame him. We Christians become true missionary disciples, able to challenge consciences, when we throw off our defensiveness and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. He is freshness, imagination and newness.

Our defensiveness is evident when we are entrenched within our ideas and our own strengths – in which case we slip into Pelagianism – or when we are ambitious or vain. These defensive mechanisms prevent us from truly understanding other people and from opening ourselves to a sincere dialogue with them. But the Church, flowing from Pentecost, is given the fire of the Holy Spirit, which does not so much fill the mind with ideas, but enflames the heart; she is moved by the breath of the Spirit which does not transmit a power, but rather an ability to serve in love, a language which everyone is able to understand.

In our journey of faith and fraternal living, the more we allow ourselves to be humbly guided by the Spirit of the Lord, the more we will overcome misunderstandings, divisions, and disagreements and be a credible sign of unity and peace.

With this joyful conviction, I embrace all of you, dear brothers and sisters: the Syro-Catholic Patriarch, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, the Apostolic Vicar Monsignor Pelâtre, the Bishops and Eparchs, the priests and deacons, religious, lay faithful, and believers from other communities and various rites of the Catholic Church. I wish to greet with fraternal affection the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchal Vicar, as well as the representatives of the Protestant communities, who have joined us in prayer for this celebration. I extend to them my gratitude for this fraternal gesture. I wish also to express my affection to the Armenian Patriarch, His Beatitude Mesrob II, assuring him of my prayers.

Brothers and sisters, let us turn our thoughts to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. With her, who prayed with the Apostles in the Upper Room as they awaited Pentecost, let us pray to the Lord asking him to send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and to make us witnesses of his Gospel in all the world. Amen!

[01938-02.01] [Original text: Italian]

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


His Holiness Bartholomew I's Address at Ecumenical Prayer Service in Phanar, Turkey
"Your advent here, being the first since the recent election of Your Holiness to the throne that "presides in love," constitutes a continuation of similar visits by Your eminent predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but also bears witness "

ISTANBUL, November 29, 2014  - Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the address given by His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, at the Ecumenical Prayer in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Phanar, Turkey.

* * *

Your Holiness,

In offering glory to the all-good God in Trinity, we welcome You and Your honorable entourage to this sacred place, the hierarchal See of the historical and martyric Church charged by divine providence with a profoundly responsible ministry as being the First-Throne among the local most holy Orthodox Churches. We welcome You with joy, honor and gratitude because You have deemed it proper to direct Your steps from the Old Rome to the New Rome, symbolically bridging West and East through this movement, while translating the love of the Chief Apostle to his brother, the First-Called Apostle.

Your advent here, being the first since the recent election of Your Holiness to the throne that "presides in love," constitutes a continuation of similar visits by Your eminent predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but also bears witness to Your own will and that of the most holy Church of Rome to maintain the fraternal and stable advance with the Orthodox Church for the restoration of full communion between our Churches. Therefore, it is with great satisfaction and appreciation that we greet the arrival here of Your Holiness as an historical event filled with favorable signs for the future.

This sacred space, where in the midst of diverse historical challenges Ecumenical Patriarchs have for centuries celebrated and celebrate the holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, constitutes a successor to other illustrious places of worship in this City, which have been brightened by renowned ecclesiastical personalities already adorning the choir of great Fathers of the universal Church. Such luminaries include our predecessors Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, whose sacred relics now lie in this holy church, thanks to their gracious return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Church of Rome; their relics are alongside those of Basil the Great and Euphemia the Great Martyr, who validated the Tome of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, as well as other saints of the Church. This year marks the tenth anniversary since the blessed return of the relics of St. Gregory and St. John; wherefore, we express to Your Holiness our fervent thanks for this fraternal gesture on behalf of Your Church to our Patriarchate. May these holy Fathers, on whose teaching our common faith of the first millennium was founded, intercede for us to the Lord so that we may rediscover the full union of our Churches, thereby fulfilling His divine will in crucial times for humanity and the world. For, according to St. John Chrysostom: "This is what ultimately holds the faithful together and upholds love; indeed, this is precisely why Christ said that we should be one." (Homily on Philippians 4.3 PG62.208)

We express once again the joy and gratitude of the most holy Church of Constantinople and of ourselves on this formal and fraternal visit of Your Holiness, and we wish You and Your honorable entourage an altogether blessed sojourn among us so that we may further increase our fraternal relations for the glory of His name.

"Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift." (2 Cor. 9.15)

Welcome, beloved brother in the Lord!

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Video Message at Vigil for Beginning of Year of Consecrated Life
"May this be an 'intense time' to celebrate with the whole Church the gift of your vocation and to revive your prophetic mission"

VATICAN CITY, November 30, 2014  - Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ video message by which he participated in Saturday evening’s prayer vigil to begin the Year of Consecrated Life. The Pope was unable to lead the celebrations since he is today returning from a three-day visit to Turkey.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Even though physically far away because of my service to the universal Church, I feel profoundly united to all consecrated men and women at the beginning of this year, which I wish to have dedicated to consecrated life.

I greet affectionately all the members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and all those present in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, under the tender gaze of the Blessed Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, for this Vigil of Prayer. With you I also greet all the consecrated men and women who live and work in the world.

My first words, on this occasion, are of gratitude to the Lord for the precious gift of consecrated life to the Church and to the world. May this Year of Consecrated Life be an occasion for all members of the People of God to thank the Lord, from whom every good comes, for the gift of consecrated life, appreciating it appropriately. To you equally, dear brothers and sisters, goes my gratitude for what you are and what you do in the Church and in the world. May this be an “intense time” to celebrate with the whole Church the gift of your vocation and to revive your prophetic mission.

I repeat to you today what I have said at other times: “Awake the world! Awake the world!” How?

Put Christ at the center of your existence. The essential norm of your life being to “follow Christ as taught by the Gospel” (Perfectae Caritatis, 2), consecrated life consists essentially in personal adherence to Him. Seek Christ constantly, dear consecrated, seek his Face, may He occupy the center of your life in order to be transformed in “living memory of Jesus’ way of living and acting, as Incarnate Word before the Father and before brothers” (Vita Consecrata, 22). Like the Apostle Paul, let yourselves be conquered by Him, assume his sentiments and his way of life (cf. Ibid., 18); let yourselves be touched by his hand, led by his voice, sustained by his grace (cf. Ibid., 40).

It is not easy; let yourselves be touched by his hand, led by his voice, sustained by his grace.

And, with Christ, begin always from the Gospel! Assume it as a way of life and translate it into daily gestures marked by simplicity and coherence, thus overcoming the temptation to transform it into an ideology. The Gospel will keep your life and mission “young,” and it will render it timely and attractive. May the Gospel be the solid terrain where you advance with courage. Called to be “living exegesis” of the Gospel, may that be, dear consecrated, the foundation and ultimate reference of your life and mission.

Come out of your nest to the fringes of the man and woman of today! Therefore, let yourselves be encountered by Christ. The encounter with Him will drive you to encounter others and will lead you to the neediest, to the poorest. Reach the fringes that await the light of the Gospel (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 20). Inhabit the frontiers. This will require your vigilance to discover the novelties of the Spirit; lucidity to recognize the complexity of the new frontiers; discernment to identify the limits and the appropriate way to proceed; and immersion in reality, “touching the suffering flesh of Christ in the people” (Ibid., 24).

Dear brothers and sisters: presented before you are many challenges, but these exist to be surmounted. “Let us be realistic, but without losing joy, audacity and dedication full of hope! Let us not be robbed of the missionary force!” (Ibid., 109).

May Mary, woman in contemplation of the mystery of God in the world and in history, diligent woman in helping others with haste (cf. Luke 1:39) and, therefore, model of every missionary-disciple, accompany you in this Year of Consecrated Life, which we put under her maternal gaze.

To all of you, participants in the Vigil of Prayer at Saint Mary Major, and to all consecrated men and women, I impart my heartfelt Blessing, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady protect you.

[Original text: Italian]


Pope Francis' Address to Syrian Refugees
"Dear young people, do not be discouraged. With the help of God, continue to hope in a better future, despite the difficulties and obstacles which you are currently facing."

ISTANBUL, November 30, 2014  - Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the Pope's address young refugees from Turkey, Syria and Iraq who are cared for by the Salesian Oratory.

* * *

Dear Young People,

I have greatly desired to meet with you, youth from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East and Africa. You represent hundreds of your peers, many of whom are exiles and refugees who are helped every day by the Salesians. I wish to assure you that I share your sufferings; I hope my visit, by the grace of God, may offer you some consolation in your difficult situation. Yours is the sad consequence of brutal conflicts and war, which are always evils and which never solve problems. Rather, they only create new ones.

Refugees, such as yourselves, often find themselves deprived, sometimes for long periods, of basic needs such as a dignified home, healthcare, education and work. They have had to abandon not only their material possessions, but above all their freedom, closeness to family, their homeland and cultural traditions. The degrading conditions in which so many refugees are forced to live are intolerable! For this reason, we must do everything possible to eradicate the causes of this situation. I appeal for greater international cooperation to resolve the conflicts which are causing bloodshed in your homelands, to counter the other causes which are driving people to leave their home countries, and to improve conditions so that people may remain or return home. I encourage all who are working generously and steadfastly for justice and peace not to lose heart. I ask political leaders to always remember that the great majority of their people long for peace, even if at times they lack the strength and voice to demand it.

Many organizations are doing a great deal for refugees. I am especially pleased by the good work of so many Catholic groups which offer generous aid to many in need without discriminating. I wish also to express deep gratitude to the Turkish authorities for the great efforts they have made in assisting the displaced, in particular Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and for the authorities’ tangible commitment in trying to meet their needs. I hope that the necessary support of the international community may not be lacking.

Dear young people, do not be discouraged. With the help of God, continue to hope in a better future, despite the difficulties and obstacles which you are currently facing. The Catholic Church is with you, including through the invaluable work of the Salesians. The Church, in addition to other forms of help, also offers you the opportunity to see to your education and formation. Remember always that God does not forget any of his children, and that those who are the smallest and who suffer the most are closest to the Father’s heart.

For my part, together with the whole Church, I will continue to pray to the Lord, asking him to inspire those in leadership, so that they will not hesitate to promote justice, security and peace and do so in ways that are clear and effective. Through her social and charitable organizations, the Church will remain at your side and will continue to hold up your cause before the world.

May God bless you all!

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address at the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. George
"Meeting each other, seeing each other face to face, exchanging the embrace of peace, and praying for each other, are all essential aspects of our journey towards the restoration of full communion."

ISTANBUL, November 30, 2014  - Here below is a Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' address at the end of today's Divine Liturgy in Istanbul:


When I was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I often took part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox communities there. Today, the Lord has given me the singular grace to be present in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George for the celebration of the Feast of the holy Apostle Andrew, the first-called, the brother of Saint Peter, and the Patron Saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Meeting each other, seeing each other face to face, exchanging the embrace of peace, and praying for each other, are all essential aspects of our journey towards the restoration of full communion. All of this precedes and always accompanies that other essential aspect of this journey, namely, theological dialogue. An authentic dialogue is, in every case, an encounter between persons with a name, a face, a past, and not merely a meeting of ideas.

This is especially true for us Christians, because for us the truth is the person of Jesus Christ. The example of Saint Andrew, who with another disciple accepted the invitation of the Divine Master, "Come and see", and "stayed with him that day" (Jn1:39), shows us plainly that the Christian life is a personal experience, a transforming encounter with the One who loves us and who wants to save us. In addition, the Christian message is spread thanks to men and women who are in love with Christ, and cannot help but pass on the joy of being loved and saved. Here again, the example of the apostle Andrew is instructive. After following Jesus to his home and spending time with him, Andrew "first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus" (Jn 1:40-42). It is clear, therefore, that not even dialogue among Christians can prescind from this logic of personal encounter.

It is not by chance that the path of reconciliation and peace between Catholics and Orthodox was, in some way, ushered in by an encounter, by an embrace between our venerable predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, which took place fifty years ago in Jerusalem. Your Holiness and I wished to commemorate that moment when we met recently in the same city where our Lord Jesus Christ died and rose.

By happy coincidence, my visit falls a few days after the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Christian Unity. This is a fundamental document which opened new avenues for encounter between Catholics and their brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

In particular, in that Decree the Catholic Church acknowledges that the Orthodox Churches "possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy" (15). The Decree goes on to state that in order to guard faithfully the fullness of the Christian tradition and to bring to fulfilment the reconciliation of Eastern and Western Christians, it is of the greatest importance to preserve and support the rich patrimony of the Eastern Churches. This regards not only their liturgical and spiritual traditions, but also their canonical disciplines, sanctioned as they are by the Fathers and by Councils, which regulate the lives of these Churches (cf. 15-16).

I believe that it is important to reaffirm respect for this principle as an essential condition, accepted by both, for the restoration of full communion, which does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation. Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each, thus demonstrating to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit. I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith. Further, I would add that we are ready to seek together, in light of Scriptural teaching and the experience of the first millennium, the ways in which we can guarantee the needed unity of the Church in the present circumstances. The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, "the Church which presides in charity", is communion with the Orthodox Churches. Such communion will always be the fruit of that love which "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Rom 5:5), a fraternal love which expresses the spiritual and transcendent bond which unites us as disciples of the Lord.

In today’s world, voices are being raised which we cannot ignore and which implore our Churches to live deeply our identity as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first of these voices is that of the poor. In the world, there are too many women and men who suffer from severe malnutrition, growing unemployment, the rising numbers of unemployed youth, and from increasing social exclusion. These can give rise to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists. We cannot remain indifferent before the cries of our brothers and sisters. These ask of us not only material assistance – needed in so many circumstances – but above all, our help to defend their dignity as human persons, so that they can find the spiritual energy to become once again protagonists in their own lives. They ask us to fight, in the light of the Gospel, the structural causes of poverty: inequality, the shortage of dignified work and housing, and the denial of their rights as members of society and as workers. As Christians we are called together to eliminate that globalization of indifference which today seems to reign supreme, while building a new civilization of love and solidarity.

A second plea comes from the victims of the conflicts in so many parts of our world. We hear this resoundingly here, because some neighbouring countries are scarred by an inhumane and brutal war. Taking away the peace of a people, committing every act of violence – or consenting to such acts – especially when directed against the weakest and defenceless, is a profoundly grave sin against God, since it means showing contempt for the image of God which is in man. The cry of the victims of conflict urges us to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox. Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the message of peace which comes from Christ, if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us (cf. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 77)?

A third cry which challenges us is that of young people. Today, tragically, there are many young men and women who live without hope, overcome by mistrust and resignation. Many of the young, influenced by the prevailing culture, seek happiness solely in possessing material things and in satisfying their fleeting emotions. New generations will never be able to acquire true wisdom and keep hope alive unless we are able to esteem and transmit the true humanism which comes from the Gospel and from the Church’s age-old experience. It is precisely the young who today implore us to make progress towards full communion. I think for example of the many Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant youth who come together at meetings organized by the Taizé community. They do this not because they ignore the differences which still separate us, but because they are able to see beyond them; they are able to embrace what is essential and what already unites us.

Your Holiness, we are already on the way towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another.

[01940-02.01] [Original text: Italian]

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Ecumenical Patriarch's Address at the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. George
"In such an atmosphere fashioned by our aforementioned predecessors with respect to our common journey, we too fraternally welcome Your Holiness as bearing the love of St. Peter to his brother, St. Andrew, whose sacred feast we celebrate today."

ISTANBUL, November 30, 2014  - Here below is the Vatican-provided translation of the address Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave to Pope Francis at the end of today's Divine Liturgy:


Your Holiness Pope Francis, beloved brother in Christ, bishop of Senior Rome,

We offer glory and praise to our God in Trinity for deeming us worthy of the ineffable joy and special honor of the personal presence here of Your Holiness on the occasion of this year’s celebration of the sacred memory of the First-called Apostle Andrew, who founded our Church through his preaching. We are profoundly grateful to Your Holiness for the precious gift of Your blessed presence among us, together with Your honorable entourage. We embrace you wholeheartedly and honorably, addressing you fervently with a greeting of peace and love: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1.7). "For the love of Christ controls us" (2 Cor. 5.14).

We still vividly preserve in our heart the recollection of our encounter with Your Holiness in the Holy Land for a joint pious pilgrimage in the place where the pioneer of our faith was once born, lived, taught, suffered, was risen and ascended as well as for a thankful remembrance of the historical event of the meeting there by our predecessors, the late Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. As a result of their meeting in the Holy City fifty years ago, the flow of history has literally changed direction: the parallel and occasionally conflicting journeys of our Churches have coincided in the common vision of restoring our lost unity; the cold love between us has been rekindled, while our desire to do everything in our capacity so that our communion in the same faith and the same chalice may once again emerge has been galvanized. Thenceforth, the road to Emmaus has opened up before us – a road that, while perhaps lengthy and sometimes even rugged, is nonetheless irreversible – with the Lord as our companion, until He is revealed to us "in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24.35).

This way has since been followed – and is still being followed – by all of the successors of those inspired leaders, in turn establishing, dedicating and endorsing the dialogue of love and truth between our Churches in order to lift a millennium of burdens amassed in our relations. This dialogue is one that befits friends and not, as in former times, adversaries, inasmuch as sincerely seek to be rightly dividing the word of truth and respect one another as brothers.

In such an atmosphere fashioned by our aforementioned predecessors with respect to our common journey, we too fraternally welcome Your Holiness as bearing the love of St. Peter to his brother, St. Andrew, whose sacred feast we celebrate today. In accordance with a holy custom established and observed for decades now by the Churches of Senior and New Rome, official delegations exchange visits on the occasion of their respective patronal feasts in order to demonstrate by this manner as well the fraternal bond between the two chief Apostles, who together came to know Jesus Christ and to believe in Him as God and Savior. These Apostles transmitted this common faith to the Churches founded by their preaching and sanctified by their martyrdom. This faith was also jointly experienced and articulated into doctrine by our Church Fathers, who assembled from East and West in ecumenical councils, bequeathing it to our Churches as an unshakable foundation of our unity. It is this same faith, which we have together preserved in both East and West for an entire millennium, that we are once again called to deposit as the basis of our unity in order that, "being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil. 2.2), we may press on with Paul "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Phil. 3.13).

After all, Your Holiness and dear Brother, our obligation is surely not exhausted in the past but primarily extends to the future, especially in our times. For what is the value of our fidelity to the past unless this denotes something for the future? What is the benefit of boasting for what we have received unless these translate into life for humanity and our world both today and Church is called to keep its sight fixed not so much on yesterday as on today and tomorrow. The Church exists not for itself, but for the world and for humanity.

Therefore, in directing our sight toward today, we cannot avoid being anxious also for tomorrow. "There is fighting without and fear within" (2 Cor. 7.5) – This recognition of the Apostle Paul about his age is indisputably valid also for us today. Indeed, even as we are preoccupied with our own contentions, the world experiences the fear of survival, the concern for tomorrow. How can humanity survive tomorrow when it is severed today by diverse divisions, conflicts and animosities, frequently even in the name of God? How will the earth’s wealth be distributed more equitably in order for humanity tomorrow to avoid the most heinous slavery ever known in history? What sort of planet will future generations inherit when modern man is destroying it so mercilessly and irrevocably through greed?

Nowadays many people place their hope on science; others on politics; still others in technology. Yet none of these can guarantee the future, unless humanity espouses the message of reconciliation, love and justice; the mission of embracing the other, the stranger, and even the enemy. The Church of Christ, who first proclaimed and practiced this teaching, is compelled to be the first to apply this teaching "so that the world may believe" (John 17.21). This is precisely why the path toward unity is more urgent than ever for those who invoke the name of the great Peacemaker. This is precisely why our responsibility as Christians is so great before God, humankind and history.

Your Holiness,

Your hitherto brief tenure at the helm of Your Church has already manifested You in people’s conscience today as a herald of love, peace and reconciliation. You preach with words, but above and beyond all with the simplicity, humility and love toward everyone that you exercise your high ministry. You inspire trust in those who doubt, hope in those who despair, anticipation in those who expect a Church that nurtures all people. Moreover, You offer to Your Orthodox brothers and sisters the aspiration that during Your tenure the rapprochement of our two great ancient Churches will continue to be established on the solid foundations of our common tradition, which always preserved and acknowledged in the constitution of the Church a primacy of love, honor and service within the framework of collegiality, in order that "with one mouth and one heart" we may confess the Trinitarian God and that His love may be poured out upon the world.

Your Holiness,

The Church of Constantinople, which today for the first time receives You with fervent love and honor as well as with heartfelt gratitude, bears upon its shoulders a heavy legacy, but also a responsibility for the present and the future. In this Church, through the order instituted by the holy Ecumenical Councils, divine providence has assigned the responsibility of coordinating and expressing the unanimity of the most holy local Orthodox Churches. In the context of this responsibility, we are already working very assiduously for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which – as decided – will convene here, God willing, in 2016. At this time, the appropriate committees are laboring feverishly to prepare this great event in the history of the Orthodox Church, for whose success we also implore Your prayers. Unfortunately, the Eucharistic communion of our Churches that was interrupted one thousand years ago does not yet permit the convocation of a joint Great Ecumenical Council. Let us pray that, once full communion is restored, this significant and special day will also not be prolonged. However, until that blessed day, the participation in one another’s synodal life will be expressed through the involvement of observers, as we observe now, with Your gracious invitation to attend Synods of Your Church, just as we hope will also occur when, with God’s grace, our Holy and Great Council becomes reality.

Your Holiness,

The challenges presented to our Churches by today’s historical circumstances oblige us to transcend our introversion in order to meet them with the greatest degree of collaboration. We no longer have the luxury of isolated action. The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which Church their victims belong to. The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrdom. Together let us extend our hand to people of our time; together let us extend the hand of Him, who alone can save humankind through His Cross and Resurrection.

With these thoughts and sentiments, once again we express our joy and thanks at the presence here of Your Holiness, even as we pray that the Lord – through the intercessions of the one we celebrate today, the First-called Apostle and brother of the Chief of the Apostles Peter – may protect His Church and direct it to the fulfillment of His sacred will.

Welcome among us, dearly beloved brother!

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Text of Joint Declaration Signed by Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch
"We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox."

VATICAN CITY, November 30, 2014  - Here below is the Vatican-provided text of the joint declaration signed by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew this morning in Istanbul:



We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

On the occasion of our meeting in Jerusalem last May, in which we remembered the historical embrace of our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, we signed a joint declaration. Today on the happy occasion of this further fraternal encounter, we wish to re–affirm together our shared intentions and concerns.

We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox. As well, we intend to support the theological dialogue promoted by the Joint International Commission, instituted exactly thirty–five years ago by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II here at the Phanar, and which is currently dealing with the most difficult questions that have marked the history of our division and that require careful and detailed study. To this end, we offer the assurance of our fervent prayer as Pastors of the Church, asking our faithful to join us in praying "that all may be one, that the world may believe" (Jn17:21).

We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation. While recognizing the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes.It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many. As Saint Paul reminds us, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together" (1 Cor 12:26). This is the law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.

The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship. Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war. Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples. We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

Our thoughts turn to all the faithful of our Churches throughout the world, whom we greet, entrusting them to Christ our Saviour, that they may be untiring witnesses to the love of God. We raise our fervent prayer that the Lord may grant the gift of peace in love and unity to the entire human family.

"May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you" (2 Thess 3:16).

From the Phanar, 30 November 2014

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Pope Francis Press Conference on Flight from Turkey 
"I went there, to Turkey, I came as a pilgrim, not as a tourist."

by Pope Francis

Yasemin Taskin, Turkish television: President Erdogan spoke about “Islamophobia”. Naturally, you reflected more on the current “Christianophobia” in the Middle East, which is effecting both Christians and minorities. Taking interreligious dialogue into consideration as well, what more can be done? That is, is interreligious dialogue enough? Can more be done? And in your opinion, what must world leaders do? As you are not only the spiritual leader of Catholics, but also a moral leader on a global scale, what can be done concretely, is it possible to go further?

Pope Francis: You've asked a book's worth of questions! I would like to say something with respect to Islamophobia, Christianophobia and interreligious dialogue.

On Islamophobia:It's true that there has been a reaction to these acts of terrorism, not just in this region but in Africa as well: “If this is Islam it makes me angry!”. So many Muslims feel offended, they say: “But that is not what we are. The Quran is a prophetic book of peace. This is not Islam”. I can understand this. And I sincerely believe that we cannot say all Muslims are terrorists, just as we cannot say that all Christians are fundamentalists – we also have fundamentalists among us, all religions have these small groups. I told the President [Erdogan] that it would be good to issue a clear condemnation against these kinds of groups. All religious leaders, scholars, clerics, intellectuals and politicians should do this. This way they hear it from their leaders' mouth. There needs to be international condemnation from Muslims across the world. It must be said, “no, this is not what the Quran is about!”. This is the first thing.

On Christianophobia: It's true, I'm not going to soften my words, no. We Christians are being chased out of the Middle East. In some cases, as we have seen in Iraq, in the Mosul area, they have to leave or pay a tax which then makes no sense. And other times they push us out wearing white gloves. For example, in one country, a husband lives in one place and his wife in another.... No, let the man come and live with his wife. No, no: let the woman leave, and leave the house free. This is happening in several countries. It's as if they wished that there were no more Christians, that nothing remain of Christianity. In that region this is happening. It's true, it's first of all a result of terrorism, but when it's done diplomatically with white gloves, it's because there's something behind it. This is not good.

Third, on interreligious dialogue: I had what was probably the most wonderful conversation about this with the President for Religious Affairs and his team. When the new Turkish Ambassador to the Holy See came to deliver his Letters of Credence, over a month and a half ago, I saw an exceptional man before me, a man of profound piety. The President of that office was of the same school. They said something beautiful: They said: “Right now it seems like interreligious dialogue has come to an end. We need to take a qualitative leap, so that interreligious dialogue is not merely: 'What do you think about this?' 'We....' We need to take this qualitative leap, we need to bring about a dialogue between religious figures of different faiths”. This is a beautiful thing: men and women who meet other men and women and share experiences. We are not just talking about theology but religious experience. And this would be a beautiful step forward, beautiful. I really enjoyed that meeting. It was excellent.

Getting back to the first two aspects, especially Islamophobia, there should always be a distinction between what a religion proposes and the concrete practice of that proposal by any specific government. One may say: “I'm Muslim” – “I'm Jewish” –“I'm Christian”. But you govern your country not as Muslim or Jewish or Christian. There's an abyss. The distinction must be made, because so often the name is used but the reality does not reflect what the religion says. I'm not sure if I've answered ....

Esma Cakir, Information Agency of Turkey: What was the significance of that moment of such intense prayer that you had in the Mosque? Was it, for you, a way of turning to God? Is there something in particular that you would like to share with us?

Pope Francis: I went to Turkey as a pilgrim, not a tourist. And I went especially for today’s feast. I went precisely in order to celebrate it with Patriarch Bartholomew. It was for a religious reason. But then, when I entered the Mosque, I couldn't say: now, I’m a tourist! No, it was completely religious. And I saw that wonder! The Mufti explained things very well to me, with such meekness, and using the Quran, which speaks of Mary and John the Baptist. He explained it all to me.... At that moment I felt the need to pray. So I asked him: “Shall we pray a little?”. To which he responded: “Yes, yes”. I prayed for Turkey, for peace, for the Mufti, for everyone and for myself, as I need it … I prayed, sincerely.... Most of all, I prayed for peace, and I said: “Lord, let’s put an end to these wars!”. Thus, it was a moment of sincere prayer.

Alexey Bukalov of Russia: Your Holiness, in thanking you for what you have done for the orthodox world, I would like to know, after this visit, and after this extraordinary meeting with the Patriarch of Constantinople, what is the outlook for relations with the Patriarchate of Moscow?

Pope Francis: Last month, [Metropolitan] Hilarion attended the Synod as a delegate of Patriarch Kirill. He wanted to speak to me not as a Synod delegate but as the President of the Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue. We spoke for some time. First I'll say something about Orthodoxy in general, and then I'll “come to” Moscow.

I believe we are moving forward in our relations with the Orthodox; they have the sacraments and apostolic succession... we are moving forward. What are we waiting for? For theologians to reach an agreement? That day will never come, I assure you, I'm sceptical. Theologians work well but remember what Athenagoras said to Paul VI: “Let's put the theologians on an island to discuss among themselves and we’ll just get on with things!” I thought that this might not have been true, but Bartholomew told me: “No, it's true, he said that”. We mustn't wait. Unity is a journey we have to take, but we need to do it together. This is spiritual ecumenism: praying together, working together. There are so many works of charity, so much work.... Teaching together.... Moving forward together. This is spiritual ecumenism. Then there is an ecumenism of blood: when they kill Christians, we have so many martyrs.... starting with those in Uganda, canonized 50 years ago: half were Anglican, half Catholic, but the ones [who killed them] didn't say: “You're Catholic.... you're Anglican....” No: “You are Christian”, and so their blood mixed. This is the ecumenism of blood. Our martyrs are crying out: “We are one! We already have unity, in spirit and in blood”. I don't know if I told you the anecdote about Hamburg, which I heard from the parish priest of Hamburg. Did I tell you? When I was in Germany, I went to Hamburg to celebrate a baptism, and the parish priest was working on the cause for canonization of a priest who had been guillotined by the Nazis for having taught catechesis to the children. During his work on this cause, he discovered that in line behind the priest in question, there was a Lutheran pastor condemned to the guillotine for the same reason. The blood of these two mixed. And this parish priest went to the bishop and said: “I'm not taking this cause forward only for the priest: it's either for both or for neither!”.

This is ecumenism of blood, which helps us so much, which tells us so much. And I think we have to take this journey courageously. Yes, share university chairs, it's being done, but go forward, continue to do so.... I’ll say something that a few, perhaps, are not able to understand: the Eastern Catholic Churches have a right to exist, but uniatism is a dated word. We cannot speak in these terms today. We need to find another way.

Now, “we land” in Moscow. I told Patriarch Kirill, and he agreed, there is a willingness to meet. I told him: “I'll go wherever you want, you call me and I’ll come”; and he too wants this. But there is the problem of war in these times. The poor man has so many issues there that the meeting with the Pope has been put on the back burner. Both of us want to meet and move forward. Hilarion suggested that the commission, for which he presides over the Russian Orthodox part, hold a study meeting on the question of Primacy. We have to continue in the footsteps of John Paul II: “Help me to find a form of Primacy that we can agree on”. This is what I can tell you.

Mimmo Muolo, of Avvenire: I was struck by a phrase you used this morning during the Divine Liturgy: “I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions”. We would like to ask you to more fully explain this phrase, if possible, and whether it was in regard to the issue of Primacy, to which you referred earlier.

Pope Francis: That is not a condition: it's an agreement, because they too want it; it's an agreement to find a form that is more closely in line with that of the first centuries. I once read something that made me think. The thing I feel most deeply about on this path toward unity, I mentioned in yesterday’s homily on the Holy Spirit: only the path of the Holy Spirit is the right path; he is full of surprises; he will lead us to see where the point lies, he is creative.... The problem – and as I said in the general congregations before the Conclave, this may be self-criticism – is that the Church has the shortcoming, the sinful habit of focusing too much on herself, as if she believes she shines her own light. The Church does not have her own light. She needs to look to Jesus Christ. Why did the first Fathers call the Church “mysterium lunae”, the mystery of the moon? Because it gives off light, but not its own: its what comes from the sun. And when the Church focuses too much on herself, divisions arise. And that's what happened after the first millennium. At the table today, Bartholomew and I were talking about the moment when a cardinal – I don't remember which one – went to convey the Pope’s excommunication to the Patriarch: the Church was focusing on herself too much at that moment! She wasn't looking to Jesus Christ. I believe that all these problems which arise between us, among Christians – at least speaking about our Catholic Church – come from focusing on oneself: we become self-referential. Today, Bartholomew used a word that wasn't “self-referential” but very similar and really beautiful... I don't remember it now, but really beautiful, very beautiful [the Italian translation of the term was “introversion”]. They accept Primacy: in the Litany today, they prayed for the “Pastor and Primate”. How do they say it? “??????? ??? ????????”, “He who presides...”. They recognize it, they said so today, in front of me. But for the form of primacy, we need to go back to the first millennium for inspiration. I'm not saying that the Church was in error, no. She had her historical path. But now the historical path of the Church is what John Paul II asked for: “Help me to find a point of agreement in the light of the first millennium”. This is the key point. When the Church mirrors herself, she stops being the Church and becomes a “theological NGO”.

Irene Hernández Velasco: I wanted to ask about your historic bow yesterday in front of the Patriarch of Constantinople. I wanted to especially know your thoughts on confronting the criticism of those who perhaps do not understand these gestures of openness, those who in particular are slightly ultraconservative, who are always looking with suspicion on these gestures of openness...

Pope Francis: Allow me to say that this is not just our problem. It is also their [the Orthodox] problem. They have the problem of certain monks in various monasteries going down this path. For example, one problem that has been discussed since the time of Blessed Paul VI was the date of Easter. And we still don't agree! Because having it on the first moon, after 14 Nisan, runs the risk that in time our great-grandchildren will celebrate it in August! We must try... Blessed Paul VI proposed establishing a date, a Sunday in April, which everyone agrees on. Bartholomew, for example, was courageous in two instances. One I remember, but the other I do not. In Finland, he said to the small Orthodox community: “Celebrate Easter with the Lutherans, on the Lutheran date”, so that in a country with a Christian minority there aren't two Easters. Even the Eastern Catholics... One time while I was eating on Via della Scrofa, I heard … the Catholic Church was preparing for Easter and there was an Eastern Catholic who said: “Oh no, our Christ rose one month later! Your Christ rises today?”. And the other said: “Your Christ is my Christ”. The date of Easter is important. There is resistance to this, on their part and on ours. These conservative groups... we must be respectful towards them and we must not tire of explaining, catechizing, and discussing without insulting, badmouthing or gossiping. Because you cannot dismiss someone by saying: “He is a conservative”. No. He is a child of God just as much as I am. But come and we'll talk. If he doesn't want to speak, that's his problem, but I am respectful. Patience, meekness and dialogue.

Patricia Thomas of the Associated Press: During the Synod there was a bit of a controversy about language, regarding how the Church should regard homosexuals. The first document spoke about welcoming gays and spoke in a very positive light about them. Do you agree with this language?

Pope Francis: First, I would like to say one thing: I would like the main subject of your news reports to be about this visit. But I will answer, I will answer, be assured. But let this not be perhaps the most éclatant: people need to be informed about this visit. But I will respond to you. First, the Synod is a journey, it is a path. Second: the Synod is not a parliament. It is a protected space so that the Holy Spirit may speak. Every day there was a briefing with Fr Lombardi and the other Synod Fathers, who related what had been said that day. There were some conflicting things. Then at the end of these interventions, that draft was written, which was the first relatio. Then that became the working-document for the language groups which discussed it. They then made their suggestions, which were made public. It was in the hands of all the journalists. That is, just as the language groups – English, Spanish, French, Italian – it became common knowledge [the first relatio], including the part you are referring to. Then everything went back to the editing commission and that commission tried to insert all of the amendments. The substantial part remains, but everything has to summarized, everything. And that substantial part is in the final relatio. It doesn't finish there. Even that is a provisional draft because it has become the Lineamenta for the next Synod. This document was sent to the bishops' conferences to discuss and offer their amendments. Then, another “Instrumentum laboris” will be made and then another Synod will make it its own. It is a journey. For this reason, you cannot form an opinion from one person or one draft. We must see the Synod in its totality. I do not agree – and this is my opinion, I don't want to impose it – I do not agree when it is reported: “Today this Father said this, and today that Father said that”. What was said should be reported, but not who said what. Because, and I repeat, the Synod is not a parliament; it is an ecclesial, protected space and this protection is so that the Holy Spirit may work. That is my response.

Antoine-Marie Izoard of France: Your Holiness, I would first like to say that the families and faithful in France await you with much joy. This afternoon you were able to spend a bit of time with refugees. Why was it not possible during this journey to visit a camp? And also, do you think you will be able to go to Iraq soon?

Pope Francis: Yes. I wanted to go to a camp and Dr Gasbarri figured it all out, he did everything, but we needed another day and that was not possible. It wasn't possible for many reasons, not only personal ones. And so, I asked the Salesians who work with child refugees to bring them. I was with them before going to visit the Armenian bishop who was sick in hospital and then, in the end, I went to the airport. I spoke with them. And I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Turkish government which has been generous, they have been generous. I forgot the number of refugees they have...

Alberto Gasbarri: There are approximately one million in the country.

Pope Francis: One million! Do you know what it means when one million people come to you and you must think of their health, their nutrition, providing a bed, a home.... They have indeed been generous. And I would like to thank them publicly.

Yes. I would like to go to Iraq. I spoke with Patriarch Sako, I sent Cardinal Filoni, but for the moment it is not possible. And not because I don't want to. In this moment, if I went, it would create a serious problem for the authorities and security. I would really like to and I want to. Thank you.

Thomas Jansen: A few days ago, you visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Did you speak with President Erdogan about the European Union and the entry of Turkey?

Pope Francis: No, I did not speak with [President] Erdogan about this. It's curious. We spoke about many things, but we did not speak about that.

Hiroshi Ishida of Japan: I would like to ask you about the “Third World War” and about nuclear arms. During the ceremony in September in Redipuglia you said that the Third World War has been fought “piecemeal” all around the world. Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, as well as of the tragic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still today there are numerous nuclear arms in the world. What do you think of the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And how do you think that we, human beings, should react to the reality of these nuclear arms and the threat of radiation?

Pope Francis: I must say two things. The first is a personal opinion: I am convinced that we are experiencing a Third World War [fought] piecemeal, a war in chapters, everywhere. There are rivalries, political problems and economic problems and commercial ones, and not just these, but many more that are directed to keeping alive this system where the god of money is at the centre instead of the human person. Arms trafficking is terrible; it is one of the most powerful businesses right now. Therefore I believe that this reality is increasing because arms are being distributed. I remember that in September of last year, there was talk that Syria possessed chemical weapons: I do not believe Syria is in a position to produce chemical weapons. Who sold them these? Perhaps those who accused them of having them in the first place? I don't know. There is a great mystery surrounding this weapons business.

Second: atomic energy. It is true, the example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, humanity has not learnt its lesson, they haven't learned. They are incapable of learning the basic concept of this issue. God gave us creation so that we could create culture out of this primordial lack of culture. We can advance it. Humans did this and discovered nuclear energy which has many positive uses, but they also used it to destroy creation, humanity. This became a second kind of lack of culture: that primordial lack of culture which man needed to transform into culture becomes another lack of culture, a second one. And this lack of culture, I don't want to say the end of the world, but it is a “terminal” culture. Then we will need to start from the beginning, and it is terrible how your cities had to start from the beginning again.

Franca Giansoldati of Italy: You have returned from this journey to Turkey. I haven't heard anything on the Armenians. Next year will be the centenary of the genocide of Armenians and the Turkish government has taken a position of denial. I want to know what you think of this. And you have also spoken before about the martrydom of blood which refers directly to what happened here and which claimed the lives of one and a half million people.

Pope Francis: Today I went to the Armenian hospital to visit the Armenian Archbishop who has been there, ill for some time, for a long time.... I had contact with Armenians during this journey. The Turkish government made a gesture, last year: the then Prime Minister Erdogan wrote a letter on the anniversary; a letter that a few judged as too weak, but it was, in my opinion, great or small, I don't know, extending a hand. And this is always positive. I can reach out this way or that way, expecting the other person's response not to embarrass me. And this is positive, what the then Prime Minister did. One thing that is very close to my heart is the Turkish-Armenian border: if this could open, that frontier, it would be a beautiful thing! I know there are geopolitical problems in the area, which don't facilitate opening the border. But we have to pray for the reconciliation of the peoples. I also know there is good will on both sides – I believe this – and we have to help so that this can be achieved. Next year there are many commemorative events planned for this centenary, but let's hope to arrive by a path of small gestures, of small steps towards closeness. This is what comes to mind at this time.

[KTO…] Pope Francis: A cordial farewell, and my best wishes. May you go forward, providing a better understanding of all that is happening in the world. My best wishes, and may the Lord bless you. And I thank you for your kindness and please, don't forget to pray for me. I need it. Thank you.

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2014