Well, the Pope begins his travels tomorrow(today?) to Constantinople, also known as Istanbul, Turkey. Contrary to popular belief or spin-meister international media reports this trip is not about making nice with the Muslims. Sure it can have that effect and perhaps it will, or perhaps it'll just make them even more mad (like anything else.)
However this is a man of peace - I mean he's the Pope for crying out loud. But some people only see what they want to and some people are just angry because they want to be. This comes to mind as well:
John 15:18 (KJV)
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
Matthew 5:43-48 (Douay-Rheims)
43 You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: 45 That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.
46 For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? 47 And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? 48 Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.
But alas, the real reason for the trip to Constantinople is to see the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches. This is quite the trip, isn't it? This could actually be the most important 3 of 4 days of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate. The two largest Churches in the world which have been more or less separated for 1000 years are not only at peace with each other but not giving up hope of reunification. Remember Christ prayed in the Garden:
21 That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople has developed a special website for the visit, showing just how important they view this event to be. It is worth the click.
We shouldn't downplay the divisions between the Church and the Orthodox faithful though. They are certainly present. And like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox have members not so easily moved to the spirit of ecumenism. For instance recognizing the Pope as the Supreme Pontiff and just more than a really really important spiritual advisor is nothing short of complete apostasy or at best heresy. These things can and hopefully will be worked out though by people who know a ton more than I do .
I am completely happy to see some happy sit downs and pleasantries. The very meeting between the two patriarchs will send warm fuzzies down the spines of the faithful on both sides.
From Cardinal Sean's Blog:
LOCAL GREEK ORTHODOX AND ROMAN CATHOLIC PRELATES ISSUE JOINT STATEMENT FOR UPCOMING MEETINGBETWEEN ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEWANDPOPE BENEDICT XVI IN ISTANBUL
BOSTON – Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston and Seán Cardinal O’Malley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston have issued the present joint statement of fraternal understanding and prayer for the upcoming three-day visit of Pope Benedict XVI with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey on November 28 - December 1, 2006. As global tensions run high, the local Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic hierarchs pray for the safety and fruitful ecumenical dialogue of their respective Church world leaders.
Pope Benedict will visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the spiritual leader of more than 270 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, for the occasion of the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the older brother of Saint Peter. Saint Andrew traveled across Asia Minor and is the founder of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the former name for present-day Istanbul. Both prelates are noted throughout the world for their extraordinary efforts to create bridges of truth and love across religious, ethnic, environmental, and political divides.
Metropolitan Methodios and Seán Cardinal O’Malley are hopeful that the meeting between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict, the two “Bridge Builders” and “Peacemakers” of Apostolic Christendom, will influence ties between their respective churches and have a profound impact on religious freedom and on the recognition of minority rights.
So, in closing, say a prayer for the Pope's travels - his safety, his clarity, their unity, shared charity, and Muslim civility.