Antioch (Fides Service) – “The symposium opened new prospects for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue; encouraged debate among various university professors, students, religious and civil leaders including Mrs iris Senturk, Mayor of Antioch and the Mufti of Antioch”, Capuchin Father Domenico Bertogli told Fides Service with regard to a Symposium on Saint Paul held in Antioch 28 and 29 June.
The symposium entitled “Saint Paul in Tarsus and Antioch. Archaeology, History and Religion” was organised by the Franciscan Spirituality Institute of the Pontifical Antonianum College in Rome in collaboration with the Mustafa Kemal University in Antioch and the Eteria Cultural Association. It was attended by internationally known experts in history and spirituality and Turkish civil and religious authorities.
“The Church in Turkey intends to valorise the country’s vast historical, cultural and religious heritage” said Father Bertogli. The initiative was given strong support by Bishop Ruggero Francheschini, Vicar Apostolic of Anatolia, who voiced the hope that it would help to intensify dialogue and mutual knowledge and understanding with the civil and religious authorities. The Symposium, the fourth in the series, focused on the places in which Saint Paul lived, Tarsus, Antioch, Athens and Corinth, the Letters he wrote to the Ephesians and the Colossians, and the figure of the apostle, “stumbling block and basis of unity”.
An evocative ecumenical Liturgy of the Word was held on June 29 at the Grotto/church of Saint Peter, in the mountains overlooking Antioch, considered the first church in this area. The Liturgy, presided by Archbishop Edmond Farhat, apostolic nuncio in Turkey, was attended by representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Patriarchate. Father Bertogli told Fides Service that “Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims prayed and gave each other a sign of peace. The event gave new hope for a future of interreligious harmony in Turkey”. PA (Fides Service 3/7/2003 EM lines 35 Words: 344)