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Monday, November 27, 2006

Historical Context of Papal Journey

Pope Benedict XVITHE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: As Muslims try to prove the peaceful nature of Islam through violence and mayhem, the context of the pope's visit to Turkey is sure to be lost in the media coverage. This visit, regardless if the pope survives it, may be one of the most historically significant events in a thousand years. It was a little less than a millennium ago (AD 1054), that the schism between East and West ripped Christendom in two, leaving behind a scandal of division from which the Church has yet to recover. Since the division of Christendom, Islam has taken over the region and plunged its sword deep into the European continent. Though successfully repelling Islam in the crusades, Europe now finds itself subject to a new Islamic takeover after having its once Christian population ravished by the emaciating effects of Secular Humanism for nearly a century. The pope's visit to Turkey falls into this context, connecting the division of Christianity with the advance of Islam and the impending fall of Europe. It is in itself a form of crusade, but not a militaristic one. It is a mission of peace in the true sense of Christian spiritual warfare. With peace comes reconciliation, especially for brothers in Christ (Catholics and Orthodox) who should have never been divided in the first place. The eventual reunification of Catholics and Orthodox will mark the end of the real "dark ages" which began in the middle eleventh century, and continues to the present time. It was a millennium marked by the fracturing of Christianity, the advance of Islam, and the rise of Secular Humanism. A thousand years of advance by the forces of hell into the heart of Christian civilization. These "dark ages" were marked by periods of Christian successes and advances as well, but the potential of the Church was stunted by the scandal of division.

For Protestants, this trip marks in important date in their calenders too, though few of them realize it now. For the reunification of East and West, which begins here, will open the "springtime of evangelism" foretold by Pope John Paul II during his 27 year pontificate. The reunification of Catholics and Orthodox is not going to happen overnight. A thousand years is a long time for two Church bodies to grow in different ways. But when the reunification is complete (perhaps within our lifetime) it will stand as a glaring testimony of the power of Christ's healing touch to those willing to receive it. Protestants of all kinds, will be faced with the prospect of getting in touch with their Catholic roots, or else face irrelevancy in the coming century. All that remains now is to see how this will play out. Will the pope accomplish this first step of Christian reunification through ceremony or martyrdom? Whichever the case, this papal trip will certainly mark the beginning of the end for Islamic advance into the Western world. It may even mark the beginning of significant Christian evangelism into the Islamic world.

From ZENIT - The World Seen From Rome....

1. The Significance of the Apostolic Journey

In the footsteps of his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to honor the land of Turkey with one of the first Apostolic Journeys of his Pontificate. Turkey is spread over a vast region which, not without reason, has been called "the Holy Land of the Church". It was there that the Christian community, particularly in the great centers of Antioch and Ephesus, became conscious of her identity and consolidated her growth. There the Church opened out to the ancient world in a process of inculturation and adaptation which made her truly "catholic", open to all cultural expressions. Furthermore, this land was the starting-point for the first evangelization of both the Far East and the Slav peoples.

It was not by chance that most of the writings that make up the New Testament originated in this land or were addressed to its Christian communities. Two of those biblical authors, Paul of Tarsus and Luke of Antioch, are among the first witnesses to a Church that in the course of the centuries saw a rich flowering of outstanding figures who left their mark on the whole of Christianity. We need but recall the Cappadocian Fathers, and those of Antioch and the Syria, to say nothing of the ranks of martyrs and ascetics whom even today the liturgy offers us as models of Christian life.

The journey of the Bishop of Rome to Turkey takes place between two significant dates that recall those illustrious witnesses of the faith: the seventeenth centenary of the birth of Ephrem the Syrian (306) and the eighteenth centenary of the death of John Chrysostom (407).

Both are splendid rays of that "light from the East" which the Holy Father John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter "Orientale Lumen" (1994), wished to reaffirm, so that the universal Church would treasure the rich witness, wisdom and spirituality of the Christian East and would look back with nostalgia to the first Christian millennium, when the Church lived in unity.

In a pluralistic age like our own, the manifold riches of the various religious traditions, past and present, found in the land of Turkey bear witness to the fact that pluralism in liturgical and spiritual expressions, and unity of faith in Christ the Lord, can be combined harmoniously. The Holy Father has rightly spoken of dialogue as a "polyphony of cultures".

This principle is true for the various Christian confessions, but it is also applicable to the dialogue between Christians and the followers of Islam. Shadows from the past cannot obscure the light radiating from the daily "dialogue of life", the "dialogue of charity" and the "dialogue of religious experiences" which has marked relations here between Christians and Muslims.

The journey of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey is a part of this history, and must be understood in the light of that history. It is a pastoral journey, an ecumenical journey and a journey of dialogue with the Islamic world...

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