Vicar of Istanbul: Christ child light of 'salvation' in the darkness of the pandemic

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Msgr. Massimiliano Palinuro celebrated the inaugural Mass for the beginning of his pastoral ministry. He recalled his predecessor, Msgr. Tierrablanca one year after his death. St. John XXIII an example of mission on Turkish soil. A religion "without love" becomes "dangerous ideology". 




Istanbul (AsiaNews) - "We need to be saved. We need the coming of the Lord. We live in difficult times. The pandemic sows suffering, disease and death. The tremendous economic consequences of this crisis are bringing poverty and despair to all our families."

With current events at heart, the upcoming Christmas holidays marked for the second year by the drama of Covid-19, Msgr. Massimiliano Palinuro greeted authorities and faithful at the Mass of the beginning of his pastoral ministry, celebrated last weekend in the Istanbul cathedral. The new apostolic vicar of the Turkish economic and commercial metropolis emphasized at the same time the hope that comes from faith, because Christ "will not abandon us. He comes to save us. He comes to expand our hearts to love and solidarity". 

Reflecting on the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, defined as "two special mothers", the prelate emphasizes that "when we carry God in us, we cannot remain indifferent to the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters".

On the contrary, the "true faith" pushes "to love and service." In a world conditioned by too many extremisms, he continues, "a religion without love for the human person becomes only a dangerous ideology. If, on the other hand, we carry God in our hearts, He urges us to set out on our journey, to come out of our presumed certainties in order to meet the other person and to make us fellow travellers of every man.

The bishop also issued an invitation to witness, to walk, to dialogue, to encounter, to travel to the peripheries of the world as Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized and that, in a reality like that of the Church in Turkey where Christians are a tiny minority, but living minority become experience of daily reality.

This is why the apostolic vicar insists on the figure of Mary, because following in her footsteps "our small Catholic community of Istanbul is called to set out to make itself close to those who are in suffering and pain."

"She does not desire the limelight. It does not crave a visibility that does not belong to it. She does not desire prestige and honors. Like Mary - affirms Msgr. Palinuro - we only want to contribute to the joy and salvation of each person". 

The celebration, held in conjunction with the Fourth Sunday of Advent and which follows the episcopal ordination which took place in Ariano Irpino (Italy) last December 7, was attended by numerous civil and religious personalities, Christian and Muslim, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who, as Msgr. Palinuro himself points out, "has always shown me an extraordinary affection, an affection that is of great encouragement to me. The Patriarch of the Armenians of Turkey Sahak II, numerous bishops including the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia Msgr. Paolo Bizzeti and the Grand Rabbi of the Jewish community of Turkey were also present.

 Christians in the Middle East, leaven and salt of the earth, although "little in numbers", have always represented an example of "concrete love" offering "a significant contribution to the construction of a peaceful and united society," said the vicar. In his homily, he reserved a heartfelt tribute to his predecessor Msgr. Ruben Tierrablanca, who passed away exactly one year ago, on December 22, 2020, after struggling for three weeks in intensive care against Covid-19.

Msgr. Palinuro assured "continuity" in the "generous work" aimed at strengthening a community "rich in charisms and fruitful energies."

Finally, he turned his thoughts to St. John XXIII, who was also at the helm of the apostolic vicariate and bound, as is evident from his own writings, by a "sincere affection" for Turkey and its people, its culture, its language and its values. "It is still Pope John - concludes Msgr. Palinuro - who teaches the method: 'Seek what unites, put aside what divides.' In this way we will walk together towards our true Homeland which is the heart of God our Father."