Pope Welcomes New Turkish Ambassador Urges Tolerance

ISTANBUL–According to an article written by Lynee Weil–and distributed by the Catholic News Service–Pope John Paul II–Bishop of Rome–encouraged Turkey to promote solidarity and religious tolerance when he welcomed the new Turkish ambassador to the Vatican.

Ambassador Altan Guven presented his credentials to the head of the Roman Catholic Church Saturday.

Noting that many Turks would like to see their country better integrated into European political and economic institutions–John Paul II told Guven international interdependence must "be elevated and transformed into effective international solidarity.

"Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good," the Pope continued. "This applies also to countries. There will never be genuine peace if one country prospers while its neighbor is in need."

Turning to an observation the ambassador had made about immigran’s facing discrimination in Turkey–John Paul II said–"…true harmony within a nation and between countries can only be maintained if the natural and legitimate differences between peoples–rather than being repressed as a cause of division–are seen as an enriching reality."

The pope encouraged Turks to promote "patient and painstaking dialogue" in order to overcome hostility toward immigran’s.

He also noted that–despite Turkey’s rich cultural history and the 2,000-year-long presence of the Christian Church in the now-99 percent Muslim country–"various religious groups" still need to learn to "relate to one another with mutual respect and tolerance."

"The existence within a country of different religious and ethnic groups represents both a challenge and an opportunity–particularly to political leaders and legislators," John Paul said. "Civil authorities need to be very much aware of legitimate claims of the various groups and respond to them in an appropriate way."

John Paul II and Ambassador Guven noted that some of the apostles preached in Anatolia–and both expressed an interest in promoting local commemorations of the year 2000.

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