Pope Francis in Turkey. The ecumenism of martyrdom
by NAT da Polis
The Pope's trip to Turkey is primarily of ecumenical importance, but also to give witness. Christian unity, founded on faith and common witness of the martyrs, urges greater commitment to a world which in theory is united by finance, but in reality is divided and disintegrated from the social point of view. A possible appeal for joint commemoration of Nicea and joint condemnation of the massacre of Christians. Which is also taking place on Turkish borders.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Istanbul, the city of two continents, the city where once a shining Christian culture flourished, is about to welcome the fourth pope in its thousand-year history, in the person of Pope Francis, the most spontaneous and evangelically informal pontiff in 60 years.

Of course, any visit of a religious leader to Turkey formally begins inAnkara. The Turkish State - be it the secular Kemalist state or the Sunni neo-Ottoman state of Erdogan - demands strict protocol, in short that 'homage be paid to the central Turkish power, which has always looked with suspicion towards the non-Muslim presence in its Republic.

But Istanbul is the symbol of the development and the problems of Turkey, marked by an unbridled building orgasm, with its skyscrapers, sprouting like arrogant mushrooms, an expression of the consolidated neo- Ottoman power of President Erdogan, who among other things recently praised the natural social disparity between men and women, claimed Muslims discovered America, and stepped up controls on twitter and on the internet.

Pope Francis' visit has been given little press space, even the pro-government media only whisper about it, given the languishing opposition. From the outset, the Turkish authorities have slated it as a courtesy call to Bartholomew in the Phanar (Constantinople), the center of the Christian East.  There its provinces were conceived, in unity, the dogmas of the Christian faith, which continue to be the common foundation, despite the succession of misunderstandings and divisions, culminating in the schism of 1054 with the mutual excommunication. It was only in 1965 that the excommunications were revoked by the will of Paul VI and Athenagoras, whose encounter was commemorated 50 years later by Francis and Bartholomew in Jerusalem.

The two churches have always marked the long history of the Christian faith. Francis and  Bartholomew will meet for the third time in one year, an unprecedented feat in the course of the millennial history of the two churches.

This meeting wanted at all costs, exceeds the value of a simple courtesy visit: it aims to express their common will to give a further boost to accelerating the full communion between the two Churches, because it has become more urgent to give a common response to socio-economic crisis that is travailing a society that is globalized from a financial standpoint, but which is crumbling and disoriented from the social point of view.

The two are convinced that only a united Church in Christ can give a response to human needs. The visit comes at a time when in many parts of the world Christians are being persecuted by a certain form of Islamic fundamentalism.

Perhaps this aspect is not welcome in Ankara, but which has to go along for show, given the massacre of Christians taking place along its borders amid indifference and political opportunism.

Some days ago, receiving members of the Council for Christian Unity in Rome, Pope Francis said that he thinks it is important to affirm the ecumenism of martyrdom experienced by our brothers who with their blood witness to their Christian faith. Instead, the "ecumenism of the massacre" must be stopped, he said, perhaps meaning that dialogue in which politics, pseudo-theology and an anchoring to old systems block progress.

In this he is in tune with Bartholomew, who has always said that the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox must overcome the age-old taboos and look to the demands of contemporary society dominated by compellingly disruptive models.

At the same time they constantly emphasize that being a Christian does not mean demonizing the religious beliefs of others, but respecting their religious beliefs and condemning the exploitation of religion for political purposes, both in the Christian and Muslim world. Christianity is not a threat but a catalyst for peaceful human coexistence.

Unfortunately the mundane conception of ecclesial life - the Ecumenical Patriarch said recently in an interview - has prompted the Church to become a secular institution. Again, he is in full agreement with the Pope Francis and with the theme he has often evoked when he refers to "spiritual worldliness".

"Christianity is the essence of human freedom, our common triune God is the essence of democracy, and the charity must be our glue," Fr. Dositheos, Charge D'Affairs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate told AsiaNews.

In this context of identity of views, we expect a new position, where in a common declaration, the two sides commit themselves to counter the crisis of modern society, the religious exploitation of this crisis by announcing further steps to involve the whole Christian world. Among them is the idea to meet again on these lands in 2025, the anniversary of the first truly ecumenical synod, that of Nicaea, with an appeal against the martyrdom of Christians around the world.