Pope Calls on Muslim Leaders to Condemn Terrorist Attacks and Violence Done in the Name of Islam
Pope Francis called on Islamic political, religious, academic and intellectual leaders to condemn terrorist attacks and violence done in name of Islam. He did so in a 45 minute press conference on the flight back from Istanbul to Rome, on Sunday evening, November 30, in which he also revealed that he prayed in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul for an end to the wars in the region, and much else.
Please note: the following is a translation done by me of the first four questions asked during the interview, and as such is not the official Vatican translation.
QUESTION ON ISLAMOPHOBIA
During his three day visit in Turkey the country’s President Erdogan and the head of the Religious Affairs Department raised the question with the Pope about the increasing Islamophobia in the West, and on the plane, a Turkish journalist put a question to the Pope about inter-religious dialogue and Islamophobia, and asked: What should the world leaders do?
The Pope answered:
“You have asked questions for a book! On (the subject of) inter-religious dialogue I wish to say two things about Islamophobia and Christianophobia.
As regards Islamophobia, it is true that faced with these terrorist attacks not only in this zone but also in Africa, there is a reaction. It is said that if this is Islam I get angry, and (there are) many Muslims (who feel) this way; many say this is not Islamic, and many, many say but we are not like this, the Quran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace, this is not Islamic. I understand this and I believe, I sincerely believe that one cannot say that all Muslims are terrorists, one cannot (say it), just as one cannot say that all Christians are fundamentalists, because we all have... in all the religions there are these little groups. No (one cannot say it).
I said to the President (Erdogan), but it would be good if all the Islamic leaders, be they political leaders, religious leaders, state clearly that they condemn this (terrorist attacks) because this would help the majority of the Islamic people; but to say it from the mouth of their leader (whether he be) religious, political, academic, so many intellectuals. That is my response. We all have need of a worldwide condemnation. It’s important that Muslims who have an identity say we are this, (and) this is not in the Quran.
As for Christianophobia, truly I do not wish to use somewhat sweetened words. They throw us Christians out in the Middle East; sometimes, as we have seen in Iraq, in the area of Mosul they (Christians) have to go away and leave everything or pay the taxes, but also that does not serve. At other times they throw us out but with white gloves: for example, a State in which a couple lives, the man lives there, the woman lives here, but not that the husband can live with the woman, not that the woman can leave the house alone. But that happens in some countries... as if they wanted that no Christian would remain. That’s the case in one zone.
It’s true that is the effect of terrorism in the first case, but when they do it with white gloves then it’s because it is something else. And this is not good.
A third point about the interreligious dialogue that I had (in Turkey): I had the most beautiful conversation in this sense with the President of the (Department for) Religious Affairs (in Ankara) and his team. Indeed when the new (Turkish) ambassador to the Holy See came to present his credentials, a month and a half ago, I saw an exceptional man, a man of profound religiosity, and the President (of the Religious Affairs Department) was of the same school. And they said something very good: now it seems that interreligious dialogue has reached the end, we must make a qualitative leap, because religious dialogue is not as you foreigners think, not in this and that; we must do the dialogue between religious persons and who belong to different (areas?). That’s good because when one finds oneself with a man and a woman that changes one’s experience; one does not speak of theology, one speaks of religious experience and that would be most beautiful. I liked very much that meeting (with the President of the Religious Affairs Department); it was of a very high quality.
Returning to the first two aspects of the phobias, we must always distinguish between what is the proposal of a religion from the concrete use that a government makes of that proposal.... I am Arab, I am Jewish, I am Christian... but you lead your country as a Muslim, not as a Jew, not as a Christian.... There’s an abyss. No? Make this distinction because how many times the name (of religion) is used but the reality is not that of religion.
THE POPE’S PRAYER IN THE MOSQUE
A Turkish journalist asked what he said in his prayer in the mosque in Istanbul.
The Pope answered:
I went to Turkey as a pilgrim, not as a tourist. I went principally, my main reason was a religious motive, to share with Patriarch Bartholomew today’s feast (of Saint Andrew). Then I went to the Mosque and I could not say then that now I am a tourist. I am religious and I saw that marvel, and the Mufti explained the things well to me, also with texts, also with the Quran where is speaks of Mary, John the Baptist... and while he spoke I felt the desire to pray and I said, “Let us a pray a little” and he said, “Yes”. I prayed for Turkey, for peace, for the Mufti. And for myself, for what I need. I prayed, truly. I prayed above all for peace; I said, “Lord let us finish the war! “ It was a moment of sincere prayer.
THE POSSIBILITY OF MEETING THE PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW
A Russian journalist thanked him for what he has done with the Orthodox, and asked if after meeting with the Patriarch Bartholomew what possibility is there that he might meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow?
The Pope replied:
“Last month, on the occasion of the synod, Hilarion, the delegate of Patriarch Kirill, came and he wanted to talk with me, not as a delegate to the synod but as president of the commission of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. So we talked a little.
First I will say something about the Orthodox as a whole, and after that I shall come to Moscow. I believe that we are on the journey with the Orthodox. They have the sacraments, they have the Apostolic Succession. We are family. But we must wait still for the theologians to reach agreement; that day will never arrive, I assure you; I am skeptical. The theologians work well, but I remember well that it was told that (Patriarch) Athenagoras said to Paul VI, “but we have to go on alone, let us put all the theologians on an island (so) that they can think”. I thought it was something not true but Bartholomew told me, “No, it is true”. He said that. And one cannot wait for that.
Unity is a journey that must be made, a journey that must be made together, and this is spiritual communion: to pray together, to work together, so many works of charity, so much work together, to teach together, to go forward together. There is the spiritual communion, and then there is the communion of blood. When they kill Christians, so many martyrs that we have (together), beginning with those in Uganda – the canonization was 50 years ago, half of them were Anglican and half were Catholic. But they (the killers) did not say, “You are Catholic, you are Anglican, you are Christian” and so the blood is mixed. This is the ecumenism of blood. Our martyrs are shouting to us, we are one, we have a unity in the spirit and in blood.
I don’t know if I told you the anecdote of Hamburg and the parish priest of Hamburg. When I was in Germany, I had to go to Hamburg for a baptism, and the parish priest brought forward the cause for the canonization of a priest who was guillotined by the Nazis because he was teaching catechesis to children. At a certain point, in his study, he saw that behind him (the priest), in the list, there was a Lutheran pastor who was condemned to the guillotine for the same motive, and the blood of the two of them had been mixed. So he went to the bishop and said, “I will not go ahead with this cause for the priest only, either ( I go) for the two of them or for none.” That is the ecumenism of blood.
I believe that we have to go forward courageously on this journey. But forward, forward! I will say something that perhaps someone may not understand: the Oriental Catholic Churches have a right to exist; they are there. But ‘unitaism’ is a word of another epoch, and one cannot speak of this today. One has to find another road.
Now let us land at Moscow. With Patriarch Kirill, I let him know of my wish for us to meet, and he’s in agreement. But I said, “but I will go where you wish, if you call me I will come”. And he has the same wish, but in these last times with the problems of war, the poor man has so many problems that the journey and the meeting with the Pope has fallen into second place. But both of us wish to meet and we wish to go forward.
Hilarion has proposed that a meeting of the commission study the primacy. One must continue with the question that John Paul II made: “Help me to find a form of primacy and we can go on”. I can say this.
THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
Asked by an Italian journalist about the Armenian genocide the centenary of which falls in 2015, which was mentioned during his visit in Turkey, the Pope replied with using the term ‘genocide’.
Today I went to the Armenian Hospital (in Istanbul) to visit the Armenian Patriarch who has been there in a vegetative state for some time.
The Turkish government made a gesture last year when the Prime Minister Erdogan wrote a letter on the date of the anniversary, a letter that some judged too weak but which was, in my judgment, a big or small extending of the hand, which is always positive. I can extend my hand this way or that way and this is positive. One thing that is close to my heart is the Turkish-Armenian border, if one could open that frontier it would be good. I know that there are geo-political problems. We must help so that this is faced. Next year there are envisaged many commemorative acts of this centenary, but let us that (they) can arrive on a road of small steps.