Addressing tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday, Pope Francis recounting his recent trip to Turkey, summing up his meeting with state officials with the words: “We spoke of violence.”
Francis said that on the first day of his apostolic trip he greeted the political authorities of the country, who, he said were “overwhelmingly Muslim,” even though the Turkish constitution establishes a “secular state.”
And “with the authorities,” Francis continued, “we spoke of violence.” The Pope said he told the Turks that it is “forgetfulness of God, and not his glorification, that generates violence.” This was the reason, the Pope said, “why I insisted on the importance of Christians and Muslims working together for solidarity, peace and justice, and declared that each State must assure citizens and religious communities real freedom of worship,” he said.
The Pope, in fact, employed remarkably strong language in his condemnation of Islamist violence over the weekend, according to his own declaration to journalists on the plane returning to Rome Sunday. Francis told Turkish President Erdogan that it is the Muslims themselves who must condemn the violence of radical jihadists.
“How good it would be,” the Pope said, if “all the Islamic leaders–whether political leaders, religious leaders, or academic leaders–would speak clearly and condemn those acts, because this will help the majority of Islamic people to say ‘no,'” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Francis met with a group of Christians and Muslims gathered for a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and encouraged them to continue working to establish an effective dialogue between Catholics, other Christians and Muslims.
“May almighty and merciful God continue to protect the Turkish people, its leaders and representatives of different religions,” the Pope concluded in Wednesday’s address. “May they be able together to build a future of peace, so that Turkey can be a place of peaceful coexistence between different religions and cultures,” he said.
Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome