As you’re undoubtedly aware by now, Pope Benedict has arrived in Turkey for his much-watched and much-protested papal visit, whose ostensible purpose is an historic meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, “first among equals” of the Orthodox Church.
Interestingly, the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan changed his plans at the last minute to greet the Pope at the airport.
After a short exchange of greetings—with the Turkish premier saying that he considered the papal visit “very meaningful,” and the Pontiff referring to Turkey as “a bridge” between East and West—the two men adjourned to a private airport lounge for a private conversation.
The highlighted quote is interesting considering the Holy Father’s previous public opinions regarding Turkey’s role in Europe. In June 2004, he gave an interview to the French magazine Le Figaro in which he said Turkey should seek to unite with Islamic countries, not Europe.
“In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe,” Ratzinger told the magazine, noting that [sic] the history of [the] Ottoman Empire, which once invaded Europe as far as Vienna. “Making the two continents identical would be a mistake,” he said. “It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics.” The [German-]born cardinal said Turkey “could try to set up a cultural continent with neighboring Arab countries and become the leading figure of a culture with its own identity.”
Watering down Christian heritage