On Wednesday, at the apostolic nunciature in Ankara, the Holy Father met with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Turkish government.
In his address to them he highlighted how he had come "as a friend and as an apostle of dialogue and peace," adding that "true peace needs justice, to correct the economic imbalances and political disturbances which always give rise to tension and threaten every society."
In order to prevent conflict, the Holy Father continued, it is not enough to respect and support "the decisions of international institutions." There must be "authentic dialogue, in order to arrive at lasting and acceptable political solutions, respectful of persons and peoples. I am thinking most especially of the disturbing conflict in the Middle East, which shows no sign of abating and weighs heavily on the whole of international life; I am thinking of the risk of peripheral conflicts multiplying and terrorist actions spreading. I appreciate the efforts of numerous countries currently engaged in rebuilding peace in Lebanon, Turkey among them."
"I appeal once more to the vigilance of the international community, that it not abandon its responsibilities, but make every effort to promote dialogue among all parties involved, which alone can guarantee respect for others, while safeguarding legitimate interests and rejecting recourse to violence."
Pope Benedict then highlighted how "the Turkish Constitution recognizes every citizen's right to freedom of worship and freedom of conscience. The civil authorities of every democratic country are duty bound to guarantee the effective freedom of all believers and to permit them to organize freely the life of their religious communities. Naturally it is my hope that believers, whichever religious community they belong to, will continue to benefit from these rights, since I am certain that religious liberty is a fundamental expression of human liberty and that the active presence of religions in society is a source of progress and enrichment for all. This assumes, of course, that religions do not seek to exercise direct political power, as that is not their province, and it also assumes that they utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of religion.
"In this regard," he added, "I appreciate the work of the Catholic community in Turkey, small in number but deeply committed to contributing all it can to the country's development, notably by educating the young, and by building peace and harmony among all citizens."
The Pope again stressed the need for dialogue which, he said, "must enable different religions to come to know one another better and to respect one another, in order to work for the fulfillment of man's noblest aspirations, in search of God and in search of happiness."
He reiterated his "great esteem for Muslims," and he encouraged them "to continue to work together, in mutual respect, to promote the dignity of every human being and the growth of a society where personal freedom and care for others provide peace and serenity for all."
"Assuredly, recognition of the positive role of religions within the fabric of society can and must impel us to explore more deeply their knowledge of man and to respect his dignity, by placing him at the center of political, economic, cultural and social activity. Our world must come to realize that all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and they must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect."
The Church, he said, is committed "to serve the cause of humanity," and he added: "I would be failing in this fundamental obligation if I did not remind you of the need always to place human dignity at the very heart of our concerns. The world is experiencing an extraordinary development of science and technology, with almost immediate consequences for medicine, agriculture and food production, but also for the communication of knowledge; this process must not lack direction or a human point of reference, when it relates to birth, education, manner of life or work, of old age, or death.
"I sincerely hope," he concluded, "that the good relations between nations, which it is your task to serve, may also contribute increasingly to the genuine growth of humanity, created in the image of God. Such a noble goal requires the contribution of all. For this reason the Catholic Church intends to renew its co-operation with the Orthodox Church and I hope that my forthcoming meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Fanar will effectively serve this objective."