Home Again, Rome Again, Jiggity Jog

It’s been lovely to see in all the photos and video how relaxed and happy the Pope looks. Especially at Hagia Sophia he seemed fascinated and delighted. Here are some parting words (curtsy: open book):

"This trip took place in utmost serenity," he said. "At every step, I saw how the authorities had done everything possible (to make it safe) and how the citizens cooperated with the authorities. I hope that the visit remains as a sign of friendship among peoples and religions, and that its positive effects may go beyond these days."

And “heh” from the same report:

Upon being told that Istanbul had been chosen Cultural Capital of Europe for 2010, he remarked: "It is well deserved." Then he went on to recount: "Even the city where I have lived for a long time, Regensburg, once bid for this honor but it did not get it."
The Turks must have eaten that up. Of course he couldn’t leave before celebrating mass at Holy Spirit Cathedral in Istanbul (homily here; journalists looking for the “grand meaning” of the Pope’s visit could do worse than reading the text). He sticks as usual, close to the Scriptures, and pleas for two things -- the unity of Christians:

Twenty-six years ago, in this very Cathedral, my predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, expressed his hope that the dawn of the new millennium would "rise upon a Church that has found again her full unity, in order to bear witness better, amid the exacerbated tensions of this world, to God’s transcendent love, manifested in his Son Jesus Christ" (Homily in the Cathedral of Istanbul, 5). This hope has not yet been realized, but the Pope still longs to see it fulfilled, and it impels us, as disciples of Christ advancing with our hesitations and limitations along the path to unity, to act ceaselessly "for the good of all", putting ecumenism at the forefront of our ecclesial concerns, and not committing our respective Churches and communities to decisions which could contradict or harm it. Thus we will truly live by the Spirit of Jesus, at the service of the common good.
And the freedom of the Church:

Brothers and Sisters, your communities walk the humble path of daily companionship with those who do not share our faith, yet "profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God" (Lumen Gentium,16). You know well that the Church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom, in order to reveal the One whom she cannot hide, Christ Jesus, who loved us to the end on the Cross and who has given us his Spirit, the living presence of God among us and deep within us. Be ever receptive to the Spirit of Christ and so become attentive to those who thirst for justice, peace, dignity and respect for themselves and for their brothers and sisters. Live in harmony, in accordance with the words of the Lord: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35).

WaPo covers yesterday’s proceedings. Focus is on his allegedly Prada slippers – a legend which, like Bush’s “fake Turkey,” refuses to die. (Was the pool reporter permitted to inspect the label?) For the true flavor of the Pope’s visit to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia yesterday, however, you’ll have to turn to Robert Moynihan or Joan Lewis (conflicting reports, however, on whether the mosaic of doves was a gift from His Holiness to the Grand Mufti or vice versa).

It wouldn't be an ecumenical visit without some kerfluffle and hoo-ha, so of course some Christians are offended that the Pope prayed (silently, for a few moments) at the mosque. I could understand Muslims being offended –presumably he prayed to his heretical "polytheistic" entity in their monotheistic shrine. Christians, I thought, know God is everywhere and you can speak to him anywhere. If I were the Roman Pontiff in a mosque in a Muslim country with violent protests taking place outside, that’s exactly where I’d most feel the need of prayer. And of course we can only guess what the prayer was. (Conversion of Muslims? For Christians to practice the respect he preaches about this morning?)

While seeking eagerly for controversial moments at Hagia Sophia & the Blue Mosque, the press seemed to have missed an actual moment of controversy. At the Pope’s prayer meeting yesterday with the Armenian Patriarch in his cathedral, B16 brought up (albeit obliquely) the slaughter of the Armenians! That took guts in a country where it's a criminal offence to mention the thing that never happened. What might we learn from this man about the courage to stand up for the truth and the respect and courtesy not to stick when it's not necessary? About charity in other words?

There were additional meetings yesterday with the Syrian Orthodox bishop, the Grand Rabbi of Turkey, and “youth”(are they their own religious group?curtsy open book again). Links galore here. A successful visit, I'd say --may it bear much fruit.