01/07/2010, 00.00
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Pope says Vatican is ready to support further efforts for peace in the Middle East

Receiving the Turkish ambassador, Benedict XVI recalled his trip in 2006, an opportunity to testify his esteem for Muslims. The importance of interreligious dialogue. The Catholic Church is waiting for the recognition of the legal guarantee of religious freedom.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Vatican "appreciates" the efforts of Turkey to resolve the conflict in the Middle East, an objective for which it is willing to lend its diplomatic support, it acknowledges that there is freedom of worship in the country, but "is still waiting for" that recognition of the Catholic Church, which guarantees full religious freedom. This is the current state of relations between the Holy See and Turkey, reviewed today by the Pope in his address to the new ambassador from Ankara, Kenan Gürsoy, who was received for the presentation of his credentials.  
Benedict XVI dedicated particular emphasis also to relations between Christians and Muslims. Reflecting on the journey made in 2006 (photo: visiting the Blue Mosque), his first to a Muslim majority nation, Benedict XVI recalled the "warm welcome", adding that he was "happy to be able to express my esteem for Muslims and to reiterate the commitment of the Catholic Church to carry forward inter-religious dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship, bearing joint witness to the firm faith in God that characterizes Christians and Muslims, and striving to know one another better so as to strengthen the bonds of affection between us". “It is my fervent prayer - he added - this process will lead to greater trust between individuals, communities, and peoples, especially in the troubled areas of the Middle East".  
In this respect, the Pope said that "as a secular democratic state that straddles the boundary between Europe and Asia, Turkey is well placed to act as a bridge between Islam and the West, and to make a significant contribution to the effort to bring peace and stability to the Middle East. The Holy See – he added -  appreciates the numerous initiatives that Turkey has already taken in this regard, and is eager to support further efforts to put an end to long-standing conflicts in the region. As history has so often shown, territorial disputes and ethnic rivalries can only be satisfactorily resolved when the legitimate aspirations of each party are duly taken into account, past injustices acknowledged and, when possible, repaired”.  
Regarding religious freedom, Benedict XVI began with affirming that "Catholics in Turkey enjoy the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution and are happy to contribute to the welfare of citizens, especially through their involvement in charitable and caring activities." But he added, "the Catholic Church in Turkey is waiting for civil juridical recognition. This would help her to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society."    
Significant, with regard to religious freedom, the emphasis that Benedict XVI gave to the importance of his meeting with Bartholomew I, whom he called "patriarch", a qualification that the Turkish state does not recognize.    
For his part, Ambassador Gürsoy, besides recalling the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between his country and the Holy See, said that as Turkey aspires to become a full member of the European Union "and could help prevent and resolve conflicts between Western countries and the Islamic world”.
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