Apostolic Administrator of Armenian Catholics in Jordan and Jerusalem Speaks on Francis' Recent Visit to Turkey.
Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey can be read from several points of view. Truly a “Pontifex,” the Holy Father is certainly seeking to build bridges with the moderate Muslim world. This was seen in the various gestures of fraternity and willingness to dialogue.
Four of the countries that the Pope has visited since his election are Muslim: Jordan, Palestine, Albania and Turkey. On his return trip, the Bishop of Rome mentioned to journalists the explicit hope he expressed to Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “It would be good if all Muslim leaders, political, religious and academic leaders, condemned terrorism clearly and say that that is not Islam.”
The Holy Father’s strategy is to contain the clash of civilizations and religions, inviting those who believe in the good and in coexistence to state their alignment.
An element that could be expected from the visit was, undoubtedly, that of asking Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. In regard to the reason for the Holy Father’s silence, ZENIT spoke with Armenian prelate, Msgr. Kevork Noradounguian (Dankaye), Procurator of the Armenian Catholic Church at the Holy See. He was recently appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Armenian Catholics in Jordan and Jerusalem.
ZENIT: Turkey wanted the visit to have a distinctly political edge, receiving the Pope as Head of State. No doubt the nature of the host country conditioned very much the Holy Father’s address. How do you evaluate the visit on the whole?
Msgr. Noradounguian: The visit in itself was a great success. No doubt each one interprets it from his point of view. To some it might seem a legitimation and approval of a debated Head of State for his alleged involvement in the Arab Spring and for his support of some armed groups. For others, it will be a great disappointment because they expected from the Holy Father some allusion to Turkey as heir of the Ottoman Empire and its duty to acknowledge the genocides carried out at the beginning of the 20thcentury, especially the Armenian.
In his role as head of the smallest State in the world and as Successor of St. Peter, the Holy Father made the most difficult but correct choice. In world politics, everything is calculation and interests. The visits and meetings between the greats are the fruit of compromises, agreements and contracts reached before the meetings. When agreements are not reached, visits are not made. The Pope made the difficult choice of going first without putting any conditions to his trip. A meeting is the best remedy for all questions and problems.
I imagine that a choice was made which was that of meeting without the pretence of assuring himself the liberty of discourses or interests, or of registering ends in the other’s field for himself or for others.