Istanbul (Fides Service) - “A year of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and service”, the members of the Franciscan Fraternity in Istanbul told Fides a year after the official opening of the Fraternity a Istanbul last February. The friars told us about their gradual insertion into Istanbul society and initiatives of dialogue including monthly meetings with members of Orthodox Churches and Muslim leaders.
The community is made up of four friars from Italy, Mexico, France and Congo who bring to the local society their rich experience of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Anxious to start dialogue and contact with the people who come to pray at the church of Santa Maria Draperis, the Friars started to learn Turkish also to build friendly relations with the local people most hospitable and kind. “The fraternity of Friars Minor is a point of reference for ecumenical prayer twice a month in our church”, says the review Fraternitas.
One initiative in preparation is a Bible Course with a missionary dimension in the foot steps of St Paul and the early Church. The friars have built up good relations with other Christian Churches and communions taking part in various ecumenical services. The Friars told Fides about two significant events: in February 2004 when the community was officially opened the Minister General and the entire fraternity paid a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and were warmly welcomed. On 30 November 2004 for the feast of Saint Andrew the Franciscans attended a Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Greek orthodox Patriarch and the return from Rome of the relics of St John Chrysostom and St Gregory Nazianzen. The Minister General sent Patriarch Bartholomew a message for the occasion. The Friars also had a meeting with the Armenian Patriarch Meshrod II who said he was happy for their presence in the city.
On the other hand, they say, “we have cordial relations with the Chief Rabbi of Istanbul and with Muslim religious authorities. The community of Friars Minor strives to bear witness of brotherhood with Christians of all rites and also to strengthen relations with other believers, mainly Jews and Muslims”.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/1/2004 righe 31 parole 314)