The Holy See Search


(NOVEMBER 28 - DECEMBER 1, 2006)



1.  The Significance of the Apostolic Journey

In the footsteps of his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to honour the land of Turkey with one of the first Apostolic Journeys of his Pontificate.  Turkey is spread over a vast region which, not without reason, has been called “the Holy Land of the Church”.  It was there that the Christian community, particularly in the great centres of Antioch and Ephesus, became conscious of her identity and consolidated her growth. There the Church opened out to the ancient world in a process of inculturation and adaptation which made her truly “catholic”, open to all cultural expressions. Furthermore, this land was the starting-point for the first evangelization of both the Far East and the Slav peoples.

It was not by chance that most of the writings that make up the New Testament originated in this land or were addressed to its Christian communities.  Two of those biblical authors, Paul of Tarsus and Luke of Antioch, are among the first witnesses to a Church that in the course of the centuries saw a rich flowering of outstanding figures who left their mark on the whole of Christianity.  We need but recall the Cappadocian Fathers, and those of Antioch and the Syria, to say nothing of the ranks of martyrs and ascetics whom even today the liturgy offers us as models of Christian life.

The journey of the Bishop of Rome to Turkey takes place between two significant dates that recall those illustrious witnesses of the faith: the seventeenth centenary of the birth of Ephrem the Syrian (306) and the sixteenth centenary of the death of John Chrysostom (407).

Both are splendid rays of that “light from the East” which the Holy Father John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (1995), wished to reaffirm, so that the universal Church would treasure the rich witness, wisdom and spirituality of the Christian East and would look back with nostalgia to the first Christian millennium, when the Church lived in unity.

In a pluralistic age like our own, the manifold riches of the various religious traditions, past and present, found in the land of Turkey bear witness to the fact that pluralism in liturgical and spiritual expressions, and unity of faith in Christ the Lord, can be combined harmoniously.  The Holy Father has rightly spoken of dialogue as a “polyphony of cultures”.

This principle is true for the various Christian confessions, but it is also applicable to the dialogue between Christians and the followers of Islam.  Shadows from the past cannot obscure the light radiating from the daily “dialogue of life”, the “dialogue of charity” and the “dialogue of religious experiences” which has marked relations here between Christians and Muslims.

The journey of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey is a part of this history, and must be understood in the light of that history.  It is a pastoral journey, an ecumenical journey and a journey of dialogue with the Islamic world.

1. A pastoral journey

The Catholic Church in Turkey, with its various ritual expressions (Latin, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Chaldean) is a small minority in a prevalently Sunni Muslim world.  Like the Apostle Peter who, wrote a letter (1 Peter) from Rome to the Christian communities in diaspora in present-day Turkey, his Successor now speaks to those same communities, not only in words but also by his presence.  Saint Peter urged the Christians there “to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).  In our own times, which have seen the rise and spread of forms of religious intolerance, Pope Benedict XVI, through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, comes to confirm the Catholic community of Turkey in hope and in fidelity to Christ.

There are two celebrations of the Eucharist with the Catholic faithful of Turkey.  The first takes place at the national Marian shrine of Meryen Aria Evi (the House of Mother Mary) in Ephesus, the city where the Council of 431 proclaimed her divine maternity, but also where – according to a pious tradition – Mary dwelt for some time with Saint John.  The shrine is a point of encounter and prayer for Christians and Muslims, who acknowledge in Mary the ever-virgin mother of Jesus, the woman chosen by God for the good of humanity.

The second Eucharistic celebration takes place on 1 December in Istanbul, in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit.  Representatives of the various Eastern Rite Catholic communities in Turkey will take part in the Mass, which will be celebrated in the Latin rite; their presence will be emphasized by a number of ritual expressions proper to each Rite.

2. An ecumenical journey

From the very beginning of his Petrine ministry, Pope Benedict XVI has made commitment to ecumenism a priority of his Pontificate.  As he stated on 20 April 2005, in a homily delivered in the Sistine Chapel the day after his election, “the present Successor of Peter feels personally responsible in this regard, and is prepared to do everything in his power to advance the fundamental cause of ecumenism.  In the footsteps of his predecessors, he is fully determined to encourage every initiative that seems appropriate for promoting contacts and understanding with the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities”.

The Pope’s journey to Istanbul is to be seen against this background, and finds a first significant moment in his meeting of prayer and dialogue on 29 November with His Holiness Bartholomew I in the Patriarchal Cathedral.  At the end of the common prayer, the relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom will be venerated.  The heart of the visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch takes place on 30 November, the liturgical memorial of the Apostle Andrew.  The Holy Father’s participation in the Divine Liturgy is followed by a brief common prayer and the unveiling of a stone commemorating the last three Popes who visited the Patriarchate, and concludes with the reading and signature of a Joint Declaration by His Holiness and Patriarch Bartholomew I.

The ecumenical character of the journey of the Bishop of Rome to the Sister Churches of Turkey is also emphasized by a visit that same day to His Beatitude Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan at the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate.

The moment of personal encounter, common prayer and the unveiling of an inscription in Armenian and Turkish commemorating the visits of Paul VI, John Paul II and now Benedict XVI, is meant to signify the ties linking the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church.

In the same spirit of fraternal communion in Christ, the Holy Father later that afternoon receives, in the Papal Representation in Istanbul, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop and several heads of Protestant communities.

3. A journey under the banner of interreligious dialogue

It is significant that the Holy Father’s first journey to a predominantly Muslim country begins in the very land from which Abraham, the common patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, undertook his journey of faith in God.  It was from Harran, a village in present-day Turkey, that he set out in a spirit of total dependence upon God, trusting solely in the word that had been revealed to him.

The renewed memory of these common roots linking the three religions, which the Holy Father wishes to evoke in his journey, is an invitation to overcome the conflicts between Jews, Christians and Muslims that have taken place over the centuries.

Here, we cannot fail to recall that during his nine year stay in Turkey, the Apostolic Delegate Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, came to recognize the urgent need for interreligious dialogue, which found expression in the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council, which he called as Pope.

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI referred to that Declaration as the Magna Charta of the Catholic Church in her relations with the Islamic world (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 25 September 2006).

The Holy Father’s journey to Turkey – in continuity with the thought of Pope John Paul II – is meant to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s conviction of the pressing need for interreligious dialogue.  Turkey, an officially secular state, which acts as a bridge between Europe and Asia and is home to various religious traditions, is, as it were, a balcony looking out on the Middle East, from which the values of interreligious dialogue, tolerance, reciprocity and the secular character of the State can be reaffirmed.

II. The liturgical book for the journey

The Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, as is customary for papal journeys, has also prepared a liturgical book for the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Turkey.

The volume, intended especially for the Holy Father himself and the concelebrants, contains the texts and the rubrics of the celebrations planned for the journey.

1. Celebrations with the Catholic community

The Holy Father presides at three celebrations of the Eucharist:

- Wednesday, 29 November, at the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi in Ephesus;

- Thursday, 30 November, at the Chapel of the Papal Representation in Istanbul;

- Friday, 1 December, at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.

The celebration at the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi

The Eucharist is celebrated in an open place near the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi, and is marked by clear mariological and ecclesiological themes.

The Mass is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The euchological texts and the biblical readings stress the mystery of Mary’s maternity with reference to her presence, with the Apostle John, beneath the Lord’s Cross.  Jesus’ words from the Cross: “Behold your son … Behold your Mother” (Jn 19:26-27), have been seen by the Church as a special testament, by which Christ the Lord “entrusted to the Virgin Mary all his disciples to be her children”, while at the same time entrusting his Mother to the disciples.

In addition to Latin, the celebration uses Turkish, Italian, French, English and German.

The celebration in the Chapel of the Papal Representation

The texts of the celebration are from the Feast of the Apostle Andrew.  The Mass is celebrated in Latin, while the readings are proclaimed in the vernacular.

The staff of the Papal Representation will take part in the celebration.

The celebration in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

The texts for the celebration in the Cathedral of Istanbul are drawn from the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.  The celebration has an explicit pneumatological dimension, linked not only to the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, but also to the particular nature of the assembly taking part, which is made up of various groups of different languages and rites, united in the same faith, by the same love and by one Spirit.

The celebration, both in its use of these languages and certain ritual sequences, is meant to express the diversity of the Catholic community. 

The languages used are: Latin, Turkish, French, German, Syriac, Arabic and Spanish.

A number of ritual sequences emphasize the presence of the various Eastern rites: Armenian, Chaldean, Syrian.  The Armenians will chant the entrance song and the Sanctus; the Chaldeans will chant the responsorial Psalm and the offertory song (in Aramaic); and the Syrians will chant the Gospel in accordance with their own ritual usage.

2. The ecumenical celebrations

There are three ecumenical moments of prayer:

- Wednesday, 29 November: Prayer service in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar:

- Thursday, 30 November: the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar;

- Friday, 1 December: the Liturgy of the Word in the Armenian Cathedral of Saint Mary.

The prayer service in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar

The evening prayer service is made up of a brief Akolouthia composed for the occasion, using various elements drawn from the different hours and feasts of the offices of the Byzantine Church.

As the Pope and the Patriarch enter the Church, seven antiphons are sung, five of which are taken from the Psalter and from texts of the Byzantine night service for Sunday.  The first antiphon, drawn from Psalm 88:16-17: “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance; in your name shall they rejoice all the day, and in your righteousness shall they be exalted”, contains a reference to the theme of light which links the service to the evening hour when it is celebrated.  The other Psalm antiphons are invitations to praise the Lord in his glory.  The third and the sixth antiphons, drawn from the Sunday service, make explicit reference to the Holy Spirit bestowed upon the Apostles: “The Holy Spirit is the fount of all wisdom, for from him comes grace to the Apostles… The Holy Spirit is the source of divine treasures, for from him comes wisdom, awe and understanding…”.

The office opens with the initial blessing found in all the services of the Byzantine tradition: “Blessed is our God, always, now and forever and to the ages of ages”.

Six troparia chosen for the celebration are then chanted: the first is from Pentecost, the day when the Lord, by sending the Holy Spirit, made fishers men of wisdom for the salvation of the world.  The second and third troparia are from the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Patrons of the Church of Rome, and the feast of Saint Andrew, Patron of the Church of Constantinople. The fourth troparion honours Saint Benedict.  The fifth is a “new” text, used first for the visit of His Holiness Pope Paul VI to Istanbul in 1967: it sings the joy of the city of Constantinople in receiving the one who presides over the Church of Rome and sits in the Chair of Peter.  The last of the troparia is the kontakion chanted in the weeks prior to Christmas, which describes the joy of the world at seeing the Virgin ready to give birth to the Eternal Word of God.

The third part of the office contains six verses of the doxology concluded by the Trisagion.  There then follows a litany with seven intercessions and a final prayer, recited by the Patriarch.  There are intercessions for the Pope, for the Patriarch, for the Churches and for the whole world.

A biblical reading follows, taken from the prophet Zechariah (8:7-17).  The voice of the prophet calls the peoples from East and West and assembles them in Jerusalem. 

The recitation of the Our Father follows the reading, introduced by the customary invitatory from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom: “Make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without condemnation, to dare call you, the heavenly God, Father, and to say…”.  The chant of the Our Father ends with the verse which ordinarily concludes the proclamation of the Gospel:  “Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you”.

This is followed by the veneration of the relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom.  A portion of the relics of these two sainted Fathers of the Church of Constantinople, preserved in the Basilica of Saint Peter, were given by Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the course of a moving celebration in the Vatican Basilica on 27 November 2004.  During the veneration of the relics, the choir chants two troparia, those of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Gregory the Theologian.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar

The Byzantine Liturgy is common to all the Churches of the Byzantine tradition, both Orthodox and Catholic: those of Greece, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and southern Italy.  The Byzantine Churches use three anaphoras or Eucharistic prayers, also called simply “liturgies”: those of Saint John Chrysostom – used almost daily; Saint Basil – used ten times a year; and Saint James – used only once a year.  The Byzantine Divine Liturgy, like that of all the Eastern Churches, is celebrated facing East.  The priest and all the faithful look to the East, whence Christ will come again in glory.  The priest intercedes before the Lord for his people; he walks at the head of the people towards the encounter with the Lord.  At different moments the priest turns to the people: for the proclamation of the Gospel, for the dialogue preceding the anaphora, for the communion with the holy gifts, and for all the blessings.  These symbolize moments in which the Lord himself comes forth to meet his people.

The Byzantine Divine Liturgy has three parts: the preparation of the priest and the gifts of bread and wine (prothesis); the liturgy of the catechumens (liturgy of the word); and the liturgy of the faithful.

A. The preparation of the gifts has two parts.  First, the preparation of the priest, which includes the prayers and his clothing with the sacred vestments.  In the prayers the priest asks the Lord in his mercy to make him worthy to offer the sacrifice, to intercede for the people, to call down the Holy Spirit.

There follows the preparation of the gifts of bread and wine.  Although the rite of preparation is performed by the priest alone, the whole Church, in heaven and in earth, is symbolically present.

B. The liturgy of the catechumens calls for the participation of the catechumens, who are then dismissed after the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Divine Liturgy begins with an invocation of the Holy Trinity: “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”.  Three litanies follow, a longer one and two shorter ones, which invoke the Lord’s mercy upon the whole world and the entire Church.  Mention is made of the Church, her members and all those in need.  These litanies always include an invocation to the Mother of God, who intercedes for everyone and for the Holy Church.  After the second litany the christological hymn, “Only-Begotten” is sung; this is an ancient liturgical hymn that summarizes the principal dogmas of the Christian faith: the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word of God, the divine maternity of Mary, the salvation that is bestowed on us by Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  There follows the “Small Entrance”.  In a solemn procession, the priest and the deacon take the Gospel from the altar, show it to the faithful and set it again on the altar, in order to indicate the beginning of the proclamation of the word of God: originally this was the entrance procession.  Before the readings the Trisagion is chanted:  “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal…”.  Two readings are then proclaimed from the New Testament.  The Gospel is usually followed by a homily.

C. The Liturgy of the Faithful.  The third part of the Divine Liturgy is the liturgy of the faithful, in which those who are baptized participate fully.  It begins with the “Great Entrance”, the procession with the bread and wine towards the altar.  The choir sings the hymn: “We who mystically represent the Cherubim…”, another ancient liturgical text in which the Church of heaven and earth is united in praise and thanksgiving to God for his gifts.  The priest incenses the altar, the church, the gifts and the faithful, all of which are icons of Christ.  He then solemnly takes the paten and the chalice, and after asking the Lord to remember all those who have been commemorated and the whole Church, he sets them on the altar and covers them with the veil.  The priest then recites for himself and the whole Church the words of the Good Thief from his cross: “Remember me, Lord, in your Kingdom…”.  The gifts, a symbol of Christ, the Lamb who was slain, are then placed on the altar, as if in the tomb from which, after the consecration or sanctification, the life-giving Body of Christ will be given to each of the faithful.  After the entrance, litanies are sung, the sign of peace is exchanged, and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is recited.  There follows the anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom, which has a structure similar to that of the other anaphoras of the Eastern and Western liturgies: an initial trinitarian dialogue, Preface, Sanctus, anamnesis, institution narrative, epiclesis, intercessions and conclusion.

This is followed by the Our Father, the breaking of the bread and communion.  Before communion the priest pours some boiling water (called the zéon) into the chalice as a symbol of the outpouring and presence of the Holy Spirit, as well as a sign of the life which comes from communion in the living and life-giving Body and Blood of Christ himself.  Communion is received under both species.

The Divine Liturgy concludes with the final blessing.

The Liturgy of the Word in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of Saint Mary

The prayers and ritual sequences making up the prayer service have been drawn from various elements of the Eucharistic celebration of the Armenian Liturgy.

Before the entrance procession in the Cathedral, in accordance with the Armenian national tradition, the Holy Father is presented with bread, salt and rose water as symbols of welcome and good wishes.

As His Holiness and His Beatitude enter the Cathedral, the choir performs the chant Herasciapar Asdvadz (“O Wondrous God”), which recounts the story of the conversion of the Armenian people to Christianity through the efforts of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

At the foot of the altar, a prayer is said.  The Holy Father and His Beatitude then take their places before the sacred altar, from which the Gospel, carried in procession from the entrance of the Cathedral, is solemnly proclaimed.

The prayer service in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral expresses the joy of the Armenian Apostolic Church at the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

III. Conclusion

The Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff is most grateful to all those who assisted in the publication of the present volume.

Thanks is first due to the Bishops of the Turkish Episcopal Conference: meeting in Istanbul on 18 September 2006, the members of the Conference provided general guidelines regarding the texts, languages and ritual expressions to be used.

A particular expression of gratitude is also due to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for the fraternal cooperation shown in the preparation of the texts in English and in Greek for the Prayer Service of 29 November and the Divine Liturgy of 30 November.

Appreciation is also expressed to the authorities of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral.

Finally, a word of thanks to the members of the Liturgical Commissions established for the occasion by the Bishops of Izmir and Istanbul.

The present volume will stand as testimony to the Pope’s love for the Turkish people, for the Sister Church of Constantinople, and in particular for the Catholic community in Turkey.  The celebration of the Eucharist and the preaching of the word of God by the Bishop of Rome to the communities of Ephesus and Istanbul are an encouragement and a gift which the Successor of Peter makes to the Church in Turkey, so that it will remain united in faith and love, in communion with its own Pastors and with the Roman Pontiff, and remain open to ecumenical dialogue, to interreligious dialogue and to preserving and promoting for all men, peace, liberty, social justice and moral values” (Nostra Aetate, 3).

†  Piero Marini