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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kisses Pope Francis as they embrace during an ecumenical prayer service in the patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul Nov. 29.

Vatican City

In Turkey, pope struck themes of ecumenism, religious freedom

By CAROL GLATZ, Catholic News Service | Published December 11, 2014

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—It is the complete disregard for God, not his glorification, which leads to violence in this world, Pope Francis said.

That is why people of faith, particularly Christians and Muslims, must work together for peace, and governments must guarantee full religious freedom for their citizens and religious communities, he said Dec. 3 at his weekly general audience. The audience was dedicated to themes from his trip to Turkey Nov. 28-30.

The importance of religious freedom, he said, was the focus of the first day of the trip when he met with government authorities of the Muslim-majority nation with a constitution affirming the secular nature of the state.

With government leaders, he said, “we talked about violence and how it is precisely forgetting about God, not his glorification, that generates violence.”

“That is why I insisted on the importance of Christians and Muslims working together for solidarity, peace and justice, underlining how every nation must guarantee citizens and religious communities real freedom of worship,” he said.

Ecumenism was another major focus of the trip, and prayer is the foundation and path of Christian unity, the pope said.

Mass in Istanbul’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit brought together Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean Catholics, as well as members of the Latin-rite church. Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and representatives of Istanbul’s Protestant communities also attended.

“Together we invoked the Holy Spirit, who is the one who brings unity to the church—unity in faith, unity in charity” and unity within hearts, he said.

“It is up to us to let him work, embrace him and follow his inspiration,” he said.

Pope Francis said it was “particularly significant” that after praying together at a liturgy for the feast of St. Andrew, he and Patriarch Bartholomew signed a joint declaration to continue working toward full communion between Catholics and Orthodox.

The feast day was an ideal occasion to “strengthen the fraternal ties between the bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter” and the patriarch, whose church was founded upon the tradition of the apostle Andrew, Peter’s brother.

The pope also told people at the audience that “it was very important for me to meet refugees from war zones in the Middle East,” adding that the encounter was “beautiful and also heartbreaking.”

He thanked Turkey for welcoming so many victims of war and conflict into its country and he thanked those religious communities working to help them.

The pope asked that God help the people of Turkey continue to “build together a future of peace so that Turkey can represent a land of peaceful coexistence among different religions and cultures.”

He also prayed that his trip reap many fruits and foster a greater missionary spirit in the church so that she will “proclaim to all people in respect and fraternal dialogue that the Lord Jesus is the truth, peace and love. That only he is the Lord.”