FaithWorld

Pope tells Croatians EU too bureaucratic, sometimes ignores local cultures

(Pope Benedict XVI arrives in his "popemobile" in front of Zagreb's main cathedral June 4, 2011/Nikola Solic)

Pope Benedict criticized the European Union’s bureaucracy on Saturday as overly centralised and rationalistic, saying it sometimes neglected historical differences and national cultures. He made the comments as he started a lightning trip to Croatia, which is bidding to become an EU member and is expected to join the bloc in 2013.

“Croatia’s entry into Europe is logical, right and necessary,” the pope told reporters aboard the plane from Rome.  But he also said he could understand how some people in a small country like Croatia, whose entire population of some 4.4 million people is little more than that of some major European cities, would be wary of joining a big bloc. Some 50 percent of Croatians support EU entry, while some 30 percent oppose it and 20 percent are still undecided, according to recent opinion polls.

Benedict said he could understand a “certain scepticism” when a small country like Croatia enters an alredy constituted bloc like the EU. “There is almost a fear of a centralised bureaucracy that is too strong, of a rationalistic culture that does not take into sufficient consideration the richness and diversity of history,” he said.

He also criticised what he called an “abstract rationalism” in the EU bureaucracy that did not give sufficient attention to cultural diversity. Croatia is some 90 percent Catholic and the Vatican is keen to have another predominantly Catholic country in the bloc as it grows in order to defend the continent’s Christian roots and values.

Cross controversy mars historic Armenian Orthodox service in Turkey

armenian 1 (Photo: The Church of the Holy Cross, an Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, September 19, 2010/Umit Bektas)

The first Armenian Orthodox ceremony in nearly a century at a church in eastern Turkey was overshadowed on Sunday by a partial Armenian boycott because of the Turkish authorities’ refusal to place a cross on the roof of the building.

Nearly a thousand Armenian Orthodox worshippers out of the expected 5,000 people attended the service at the Church of the Holy Cross, which the government has hailed as a sign of growing religious tolerance — see here and here — in the predominantly Muslim country, which is a European Union candidate.

The church, which has been closed for services since the 1915 mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman troops, has become a symbol of Turkey’s troubled past with its Armenian minority and a painful process of reconciliation.

Art show in historic Istanbul Orthodox seminary stirs hope of reopening

halkiAn Istanbul seminary closed in 1971 is hosting its first public event in 40 years, raising hopes it may shortly be reopened by Turkey and once again educate priests for the Greek Orthodox community.

The European Union and the United States have pressed EU membership hopeful Turkey to reopen the historic school, which occupies a beautiful and commanding site at the top of the island of Heybeliada, or Halki in Greek, off the Istanbul shoreline. (Photo: Empty classroom at Halki seminary, September 18, 2006/Tom Heneghan)

“Tracing Istanbul,” an exhibition of works by Greek artists inspired by the city, has filled the school’s evocative, abandoned classrooms with paintings and brought life back to the corridors.

from Global News Journal:

Religious leaders and the EU take tentative first steps

religion

Top European Union officials held talks this week with religious leaders, part of a policy of holding consultations with religious groups that was enshrined in the EU's Lisbon reform treaty, which came into force last December. But not everyone supports the move.
 
More than two dozen Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders -- joined by a representative each from the Hindu and Sikh communities -- met  the presidents of the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council on Monday to discuss how to fight poverty and social exclusion.

It was the the sixth such consultation since 2005, but the first to take place in the context of the Lisbon treaty, the EU’s latest collective agreement.  Article 17 of the treaty commits the EU to maintaining "an open, transparent and regular dialogue with ... churches and (non-confessional and philosophical) organisations".

But opponents of the guidance say that because many Europeans are secular and an increasing number practise non-Christian religions, churches should not have special rights.

Turkey reopening ancient Armenian church to heal wounds

akdamar 1 (Photos: The Church of the Holy Cross, Akdamar Island, 27 June 2010/Umit Bektas)

Swallows dart around the dome of the 10th century Armenian church rising from Akdamar Island set amid the turquoise waters of Lake Van.  Tombstones with ancient Christian inscriptions and crosses lie scattered among the weeds in the garden, where day-trippers picnic in the shade of almond trees and sunbathe after a swim.

The serenity of the scene belies a traumatic past that haunts Turkey and Armenia to this day.  The Church of the Holy Cross, which is now a state museum, has become a symbol of a tortuous reconciliation process as Turkey prepares to open the site on Sept. 19 for a one-day religious service that could become an annual event.

“This church is very important for Armenians, not only in Turkey, but across the world,” said Archbishop Aram Ateshian, a spiritual leader from Turkey’s surviving Armenian community.  “For decades, we could not say mass or have a religious service because it was forbidden by the government.”

from Global News Journal:

One dent at a time, Turkey’s nation-state edifice erodes

"Happy is he who calls himself a Turk."

One of the first things that catches your attention when you drive out of the airport of Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's famous phrase engraved on mountain slopes in big white letters.

Bent on building a secular and modern Turkey after World War One, Ataturk carved a united Turkish nation out of the disparate ethnic and religious groups that inhabited the old Ottoman empire -- sometimes by forced "Turkification" as was the case with ethnic Kurds.

That once-monolithic nation state is slowly being dented as pluralism becomes an acceptable fact of life in Turkish society.