Pope Benedict XVI
- Created: November 28, 2006
- Written by Benedict XVI
More than forty years ago, the Second Vatican Council wrote that "Peace is more than the absence of war: it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces ... but it is the fruit of the right ordering of things with which the divine founder has invested human society and which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for an ever more perfect reign of justice" (Gaudium et Spes, 78). We have come to realize that true peace needs justice, to correct the economic imbalances and political disturbances which always give rise to tension and threaten every society. The recent developments in terrorism and in certain regional conflicts have highlighted the need to respect the decisions of international institutions and also to support them, in particular by giving them effective means to prevent conflicts and to maintain neutral zones between belligerents, through the presence of peacekeeping forces. All this, however, remains insufficient unless there is authentic dialogue, that is to say fruitful debate between the parties concerned, 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. In your presence, Ambassadors, 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. As I wrote in my first World Day of Peace Message, "the truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word" (1 January 2006, 6).
Turkey has always served as a bridge between East and West, between Asia and Europe, and as a crossroads of cultures and religions. During the last century, she acquired the means to become a great modern State, notably by the choice of a secular regime, with a clear distinction between civil society and religion, each of which was to be autonomous in its proper domain while respecting the sphere of the other. The fact that the majority of the population of this country is Muslim is a significant element in the life of society, which the State cannot fail to take into account, yet 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, 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.
As I have recently observed, "we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together" (Address to the Ambassadors of Countries with a Muslim Majority, Castel Gandolfo, 25 September 2006). This dialogue must enable different religions to come to know one another better and to respect one another, in order to work for the fulfilment of man's noblest aspirations, in search of God and in search of happiness. For my part, on the occasion of my visit to Turkey, I wish to reiterate my great esteem for Muslims, encouraging 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. In this way, religions will be able to play their part in responding to the numerous challenges currently facing our societies. 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 centre 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.