Vicar of Anatolia on building a diocesan Church while on the synodal path
The Synodal Conference of the Church of Turkey is scheduled to take place this weekend in Ephesus and İzmir, with meetings, prayers and a solemn Eucharistic celebration. Bishop Bizzeti will take stock of the work accomplished so far and the urgencies for the future. Families as the first place to cultivate the faith, more "impetus" is needed to "make Christianity known". The knot tied to the Treaty of Lausanne.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Formation of the laity, integration of neophytes into traditional communities, overcoming a clerical Church and the urgency of giving birth to and consolidating a diocesan reality that integrates a Church "hitherto tied to religious orders".
These are the themes that have emerged in the synodal journey made so far by the Catholic community of Turkey, as Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti, apostolic vicar of Anatolia and president of the local Caritas, tells AsiaNews on the eve of the conference scheduled to take place in Ephesus and İzmir on 8 and 9 October. "The Turkish Church," the prelate emphasised, "is going through a phase of great vivacity, thanks also to the presence of young bishops full of enthusiasm, and people who want to get involved. At the same time, there is a situation of great fragility'.
For the vicar of Anatolia, the issue of being a "minority without legal recognition" remains central, which makes "our situation and condition always very precarious". Paying the highest price are "Syrian [Christian] refugees, who cannot open chapels and places of prayer, meeting and aggregation centres especially for young people" who risk being the most marginalised.
In recent months, the Turkish Christian communities, in communion with the world Church, have "deepened" the synodal path desired by Pope Francis, encouraging the "active participation" of all the faithful. In a message presenting the two-day Synodal Conference of the Church of Turkey, Archbishop Martin Kmetec, archbishop of Izmir and president of the Bishops' Conference, called for active participation in an event "of great importance". On the calendar are prayers, meetings, round tables on the topics of greatest interest and a solemn Eucharistic celebration at the end of the conference, which aims to contribute to the growth "in discernment" of the local Church.
In recent months, the Catholics have embarked on a synodal path, which then resulted in a document sent to Rome. "We felt," said the vicar of Anatolia when presenting the two-day event, "the usefulness of bringing together people who have participated in the journey, representatives of each diocese" with whom to elaborate "a vision of the work accomplished and an opportunity to recount what is happening in the Church in Turkey". Among the faithful there is great enthusiasm in participating in 'celebrations and festivities', but there is still a lack of 'a certain enthusiasm in making Christianity known, in taking responsibility' in the face of a Church that is still too 'reliant on its pastors'.
Alongside this is the issue of the "neophytes, the refugees" who show a "great vivacity" while the "problem of formation remains unresolved, especially of priests who are often not prepared for evangelisation but only for the administration of the sacraments". "It is not enough," he adds, "to take care of a flock that is already settled, but here in Turkey, as elsewhere in the world, we need people capable of giving birth to and rethinking communities" in a Church that has a great "variety of charisms. The laity must be less passive and more prepared, living first of all a domestic Church and a faith within families" that are "the first protagonists of evangelisation".
The Turkish Church still has many unresolved needs, such as the lack of human and economic resources, but at the same time it has a treasure that is not only the places of the past that pilgrims come to visit, but which is represented by the "living communities themselves. It would be nice,' says Monsignor Bizzeti, 'to increase the opportunities for knowledge and encounters, the exchange of gifts, moments of study and in-depth analysis of the different realities, such as the Syriac Church, which represents a true 'third lung' of Christianity with its theology and its vivacity'.
At the meeting in Ephesus, the next stages of the synodal path will be outlined, giving continuity to the journey. Part of the problems of the Church in Turkey are connected to "institutional issues", concludes the prelate, who hopes that on the occasion of the centenary of the Treaty of Lausanne "there can be a revision in the relations that are currently frozen between the Turkish State and the Catholic Church, so that there can be full recognition [also juridical] of the community".