Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Turquoise in Turkey

This morning, the Pope celebrated what John Allen called the "smallest crowd in recent memory for a papal Mass," swinging through Ephesus on pilgrimage to the original "Mary's House":
In a fitting pastoral touch, Benedict XVI spoke the opening collect of the Mass in Turkish, drawing appreciative nods from the assembly.

Predictably, the pope’s message centered on Mary. The Sanctuary of Meryem Ana Evì (the “House of Mary”) was founded by the Lazarist Fathers in the 19th century, based on the visions of the German mystic Anna Katherine Emmerick, who identified this spot as the place where Mary died.

Though even the official Vatican Radio trip book notes that there’s no archaeological evidence to support the claim, the sanctuary nevertheless boasts a unique distinction, in that it’s perhaps the only Marian shrine on earth which draws as many Muslim pilgrims as Christians. Inside are votive reliefs with quotations from seven passages of the Qu’ran praising Mary.

Invoking the reverence which Muslims have for Mary, Benedict implored the small crowd to “lift up a prayer to the Lord, a special prayer for peace between peoples.” He referred to the Anatolian peninsula as “a natural bridge between continents.”

The homily's been posted in full.

The only other public moment of today's schedule is Benedict XVI's brief visit to St George's at the Phanar, the church contained within the compound of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, following which he'll meet privately with Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Tomorrow morning, Benedict will join Bartholomew for a divine liturgy in St George's as the patriarchate marks St Andrew's Day, its patronal feast.

Reuters/Stefano Rellandini