The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Pope’s convenient visit to Turkey

In light of an excerpt in a speech delivered by Pope Benedict XVI in September at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany which was largely perceived by the Muslim world as inflammatory and offensive, it has become difficult to determine the nature of the Pontiff’s recent visit to Turkey. In other words, was it on his list of routine papal duties, a reconciliation effort aimed at his Muslim critics, or conveniently both?

While the answer to this may vary and the Pope’s motives and intentions may certainly lend themselves to a number of credible interpretations, the cleric’s 20-minute visit with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan upon arrival at the airport in Ankara could be seen as an effort inconsistent with the policies of the Vatican and modern ideologies in general by both followers and critics.

During his visit with Erdogan, the Pope expressed his support for Turkey’s bid for entry into the European Union. Not only was he less than supportive of the nation gaining membership in the community some time before his visit, the Holy See, according to the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, holds no official position on Turkey’s entry into the EU.

The Pope’s sentiment regarding Turkey’s political posture was also voiced to a leader whose contemporary nation-state claims to be founded upon ideals of modernity and secularism, which in essence means a clear-cut line between religion and politics.

Throughout the rest of his visit, the Pope fulfilled his calls for an exchange between both religions appearing at the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. He met with leading Christian and Muslim clerics alike making it a success in religious diplomacy.

It is, of course, understandable why the Pope would be addressing both Muslim and Christian devotees alike since it is his responsibility as a spiritual adviser to coalesce while at the same time denounce religious animosity. Commenting on Turkey’s pending admittance to the EU, however, is a trifle deviant from this objective.

It is true that the Pope, just like any other sovereign individual may hold and express political opinions and dispositions. However, the Pope’s discussion on Turkey’s strides toward the EU can be compared to a professional athlete delivering a lecture on classical English poetry.

It is not that his or her words and poetic opinions do not matter or hold any weight, it is simply that it will be received with skepticism.

This can all be brought down to the old issue of separating religion and politics. It is safe to assume that the world has come a long way from times like the Middle Ages, during which there was no distinction between government and state. In fact, political prisoners would seek asylum within a church’s walls during the ages of antiquity.

Now in a world with a right, a left and an infinite number of other stances, opinions and beliefs throughout the spectrum, it is incumbent upon the custodian of the Christian faith with millions of faithful adherents, to avoid alienating those with differing stances on issues that the Pope himself is not prepared to guide anyone in.

The Pope may certainly inspire political reform, but in order to stay true to the original objectives of the papacy, it should be fulfilled by collective understanding through the spiritual guidance he has to offer, not by sparking a catalyst, in this case his support for Turkey’s EU entry, that could be potentially divisive.

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