Orthodox patriarch calls on Christians to respect other religions
- Orthodox patriarch calls on Christians to respect other religions,
says pope did not intend to offend Muslims
The Associated Press
Published: September 28, 2006
ISTANBUL, Turkey Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I called on
Christians to respect other religions and said Thursday he was
convinced the pope did not intend to offend Muslims with his
comments about the Prophet Muhammad.
The patriarch was hosting a group of Vatican-based journalists in
Istanbul before Pope Benedict XVI's visit here in late November.
"We don't need to cultivate this confrontation, this enmity,"
Bartholomew said in touching on the outrage in the Muslim world over
Benedict's comments. "We need to respect the religious beliefs of
Bartholomew, spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox
Christians worldwide, said he was looking forward "with great
anticipation" to Benedict's visit, and that greater unity between
Orthodox and Catholic Christians was "for the good of humanity."
Bartholomew is based in Turkey, a 99 percent Muslim country whose
leaders have repeatedly called on the pope to offer a personal
apology for quoting a Medieval-era Byzantine emperor who disparaged
Islam's prophet and linked his teachings with violence.
"I repeat with conviction that your pope did not intend to offend
the Muslim world," Bartholomew told the group in Italian from a
chamber at the patriarchate in Istanbul. "Naturally, we do not want
to offend the prophet of our brother Muslims." Bartholomew said
Christians should understand such an offense in the same way they
would an offense made against Jesus.
On Thursday in Rome, the chief negotiator for Turkey's EU membership
bid said Turks had accepted the pope's expression of regret. "We
thought the words were unfortunate, but, on the other hand, we (have
accepted) the pope's corrective attempts," Ali Babacan said.
The previous day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called
Benedict's expressions of regret "maneuvers," and said the president
would set him straight on Islam when the pontiff visits Turkey.
Benedict's visit will be his first as pope to a predominantly Muslim
country. Both Benedict and Bartholomew have said they are committed
to greater unity among Christians, which will be a key focus of the
Christianity's East-West split began as early as the 5th century
over the rising influence of the papacy. The split was sealed in
1054 with an exchange of anathemas - spiritual repudiations -
between the Vatican and the patriarch of Constantinople, now
Istanbul, and still the spiritual center of Orthodoxy.
Catholic and Orthodox dignitaries met in Belgrade earlier this week
to discuss the process of bringing East and West closer together,
but produced no breakthrough.
Orthodox clergymen accompanying Bartholomew said the key issue
dividing the two churches remained the dispute over the power, or
primacy, of the pope.
Metropolitan John of Bergama said Orthodox Christians had to
overcome their suspicions "that the Roman Catholic church is
interested in subjecting the Orthodox to the authority of the bishop
of Rome," or the pope.
"We have to overcome this psychological difficulty," he said. "There
must be a kind of reformation ... reformation of the primacy.
Otherwise we cannot meet."