AS I I it. 1970's drew to a close Pope John Paul made a three-day 'visit 111 turkey — a trip Mile!' he himself described as the most important that he had yet undertaken. oyes towards unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches are now certain to he one of the ecumenical keynotes of the new decade. t lest! the Rev. ,Adam Itoniecki, a member of the Pope's entourage in Turkey, gives his impressions of parts or the visit.
THE SCENE IS Fanar— the seat of Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople.
It is the afternoon of November 29, the first day of the Pope's historic visit to Turkey. Suddenly more than 900 years of suspicion and hostility seem to fade into the background as Pope John Paul listens attentively to the welcome of Patriarch Demetrios, the leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.
The Patriarch's words underline the significance of the occasion: "Your coming here, so indicative of' love and Christian simplicity, has a more deeprooted significance than that of pa mere meeting between two local bishops. We see it as a meeting between the western and eastern churches," he tells the Pope.
"For that reason, therefore, the joy with which the visit of Your Holiness fills our hearts will not he limited to this church and this day only. The true place of our encounter is in the universality and eternity of God's redemption of mankind.
"Locally, the meeting is indeed happening here: however according to the Church's interpretation it refers to the whole of both East and West, and according to the geographical interpretation of modern ecumenism, it also involves the North and the South."
Their meeting is "an expression of God's will as well as a challenge and invitation offered to us by the whole world, hoping that we shall respond to it", he says.
In reply, the Pope expresses his happiness at being present in "one of the most beautiful cities of the world".
"I would like to see my visit today as a meeting in our common, apostolic faith — for the purpose of future reunion after a thousand years of unfortunate and sad separation, in God I place my hope for the near beginning of a new era."
From Fanar Pope John Paul went on to the Armenian Church in the District of Kurnpkai where he was greeted by the Patriarch Chnork Kulustian. In his speech he stressed that he wanted his visit to be seen as "Evidence of the unity that already exists."
"May it demonstrate the strong determination on my part to
proceed with God's grace, towards the final aim which is the complete communion between our churches,he said.
Later he spoke of the common declaration proclaimed in 1970 by Vasken 1 and Paul VI which related to a growing need for better acquaintance between the two churches and also for jointly conducted theological .studies with the purpose of deeper understanding of the mystery of Christ.
Meeting the Armenian
A CROWDED Church — no standing room. (Invitations first checked at the entrance td the churchyard, then 'at the door to the Basilica itself). Polygonal interior, fully illuminated, worshippers dressed in their best clothes. A carpet rolled out for the Pope to walk on. In front of the altar — the throne on which the Pope will sit; chairs — for the accompanying dignitaries.
The archbishop Jean Cholokian surrounded by the clergy leave the vestry, and move towards the main entrance. Almost one minute before the Pope's arrival lights suddenly go out.
General confusion and embarrassment. Within, .seconds, however the church is lit again with a sea of candles.
The Pope enters. to the applause of the congrepation, he walks down the nose oflering his blessing — dressed in a white soutanne and purple cloak. He prays for a while at the altar and then rests in the armchair. The vestry tills with dignitaries. The darkness is occasionally broken by the dazzling floodlights of television cameras. The service begins with a prayer by the archbishop, followed by singing, reading in Armenian and an anthem performed by the choir.
The Pope listens with rapt attention. Then the Archbishop conducts the "worshippers' prayer(oratio fidelium) with the choir chanting the response. he appeals to the congregation to pray for the Pope and that the aim of his journey nay be reached.
Then follows his speech of welcome, he speaks without microphones. his voice betraying his deep emotion; "Blessed he the one who conies in the name of the Lord — this is how we greet you. Holy hither. thanking you I'm crossing the threshold of our church".
Then the archbishop introduces the community of Armenian Catholics and talks of their land c \ plaining how important the visit of St Paul's successor is to the Christian turks. "The Holy Father arrives into this perturbed world with the intention of destroying the dividing harriers. discovering all that is common to men and preaching the role of peace in different walks of life."
Al the end of the speech the Pope rises front his seat and proceeds to read his address. Dear brothers and sisters of the Armenian Catholic archdiocese in Istanbul, I am so happy that God allowed me to spend this moment among you. although it is much too short for both you and me. I know of your loyalty to the faith, of your devotion to your Archbishop and of your efforts to keep the community spiritually active and alive. I know of your beautiful customs and rich religious inheritance. I am also aware of your affection for the Pope himself and your heart-felt desire to remain in complete communion with the apostolic capital in Rome.
"I my lie you to become illy (lived in this great and united movement (towards full unity). You live here — in direct contact with your brothers of the Eastern Orthodox church. You inhabit the same city. lace identical pastoral problems and undertake the same social activities. The realization of complete unity is to you, therefore. a matter of great urgency. Who else but you are in a better position to explain and abide by the instructions and recommendations of the Vatican council in this field? You have truly been called to be Artisans of unity". More singing. The papal blessing and as generous gill for the Church: a chalice. When the Pope turns towards the exit. Bishop Marcinkus raises the chalice high for the congregation to sec. The applause almost drowns the choir. Spontaneous cheering: "Eviva Papa!!!" Pope John Paul II leaves the church. Expressions of deep emotion (sometimes even tears) show on the people's faces.
Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul in the Basilica of the Holy Spirit.
TIIF BASILICA situated next to the school run by the sisters "De Syon". Entrance through the school. Classical interior, nave iind two aisles, altar in the Baroque style. Large congregation. In the presbytery the gathered clergy, Patriarch Dimitrios I, the Armenian Patriarch Lostam, the members of the holy synod, the Armenian Archbishop of Istanbul Cholokian the archbishop of Khalkis and the Pope's aides, In front of the presbytery sitting in the chairs — dozens of priests, wearing albs and stoles — who are to celebrate the mass together with the Pope. Journalists assembled by the :dial.
Sudden applause. Singing of "Christus Vincit". The Pope, dressed in a chasuble, walks down the nave, followed by Cardinals Casaroli and Willebrands, other Bishops and the inseparable Master ()I' Ceremonies — Mgr Noe. All dignitaries — the representatives of Christian Churches. as well as the high Rabbi of Istanbul — take their seats behind the altar, l'he speech vveicom, is given by the Vicar Apostolic of Constantinople — BishoP Gauthier Pierre Dubuois. Poetic, beautifully worded sentences.
Then — the Pope begins the service in French.
he first reading — a Turkish la) man reads out the text in his own language — with feeling to a congregation now totally silent.
The Gospel is sung by a young monk. On this occasion, the words about "The mourning who
will he comforted." "the meek who will inhorit the earth."the hungry and thirsty for righteousness who will he satisfied," "the merciful the pure in heart and the peacemakers" sound especially poignant.
The Pope then greets all the Bishops, Priests and the lay faithful of different catholic cornn unities — present in chutch a Id "through" them — all
Catholic, in urkey and says .1 would like to direct my thanks i all those who made my journey possible especially the gover iment who received me with will courtesy.
But he adds: "Unfortunately. we shall not he able to conduct the service together. his is th.! most painful consequence of tragic division that happened to Christ's Church. Hie communion takes place then the Armenian Patriarch together with the celebratiiqz priests raises his hands, The kiss of peace. The Pope turns towards the ecumenical patriarch who takes a step forward. An embrace a sign of peace exchanged. in turn with all assembled in the presbytery.
A sign of peace, a symbol of hope.