Iskenderun (Agenzia Fides) - "In Florence, for the first time, 60 Catholic bishops and 65 Christian, Muslim and Jewish mayors met and signed a document, which contains many serious and interesting things. This convergence seems to me the most important thing, which is above the individual contents". This is how Bishop Paolo Bizzeti sj, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, summarizes the days spent in the Italian city on the occasion of the conference "Mediterranean frontier of peace". And in a conversation with Fides he defines the Turkish government's decision to close access to the Black Sea to warships as "courageous". The Jesuit bishop, commenting on the days lived in Florence, states: "Different people, who may be on opposite sides due to the political and social conflicts they have experienced in the course of their public activity, have agreed to add their signatures to a document on the present and the future of coexistence between the peoples of the Mediterranean. Until a few decades ago, such an experience would have been unimaginable. And the words that echoed in the speeches delivered in Florence would not have been heard. This in itself is an extraordinary fact, in line with the dreams of Giorgio La Pira". From February 23 to 27, Florence hosted an unprecedented meeting of Catholic bishops and mayors from Mediterranean countries, who came together to confirm and rethink the role of the Mediterranean Sea as a "frontier of peace", following the prophetic insights cultivated over the years of the Cold War by the great Florentine Mayor Giorgio La Pira.
The days of meetings and prayers were attended, among others, by Patriarchs and Bishops of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and the Holy Land. Precisely during the days of the Florence Conference, which ended with the signing of the "Florence Charter", the entry of the Russian armed forces into Ukrainian territory renewed the trauma of a new war that had begun in the heart of Europe, with potentially devastating consequences for all of humanity.
Bishop Bizzeti rejects the interpretations that brand meetings like the one held in Florence as naive idealism and nothing but talk: "In reality - underlines the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia - we have no other way than this: to continue proposing prophetic gestures, however isolated they may be -but true prophetic acts are always isolated-, which may not give concrete results in the immediate future, but indicate the direction and open to temporal horizons that we do not know. It is better to avoid overly pragmatic statements and not provoke controversy over this or that detail, as I see happening in the first hours after the conclusion of the meeting in Florence. In a way - Bishop Bizzeti continues - we continue to have the same problems as the Christians of the first century, when there were those who wondered why, as time passed, the Lord Jesus did not return, as he had promised. Those who asked these questions were answered: my dear, in the eyes of God a thousand years are like yesterday that has passed. So relax, because it is not up to you to know where, how and when the Lord will return".
The words and perspectives that emerged in Florence echo the suggestions also expressed in the document on human fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of al Azhar. "The comforting difference is that in Abu Dhabi the document on fraternity was signed by two "champions", while the signatures of the Florence Charter came from 130 people with recognized public functions".
From his post in Turkey, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is also based, Bishop Bizzeti outlines the negative repercussions that the lacerations between the Orthodox Churches - also related to the tragedy of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine - could have on the ecumenical path intended to restore full communion between Catholics and Orthodox on a broader and more substantial stage. "Living in Turkey", notes the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia "in these years I am getting an idea: today the problem is among the Orthodox, tomorrow there may be problems among the Catholics. But true ecumenism consists in the great attempt to convert us all to the Gospel. And on this horizon, it is increasingly clear that our problem is not the relationships between us Christians, but our relationships with Jesus Christ, which are intermittent relationships. All of us, in all of our churches, have intermittent relationships with Jesus Christ. And two people who have intermittent relationships with a third person are unlikely to get along with each other if their unity depends on their relationship with that third person, which is their raison d'être. This means that we should not be afraid of individual incidents: if we want to take things seriously, we cannot think that problems can be solved by agreeing on this or that theological, legal or power management aspect. It is about living the Gospel authentically. If this is not the case, the real problem will not be how to improve relations between us, the Christians of the different Churches, but it will be our disappearance, because we will no longer have a reason to exist. Regarding the possible repercussions of the Russian military invasion in Ukraine on the initial thaw between Turkey and Armenia, Bishop Bizzeti considers that the situation can evolve in different directions, and the future still seems indecipherable: "On the one hand – points out the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia - "the ongoing conflict on Ukrainian territory could lead everyone to recognize that with neighbors it is always better to resolve open issues and find an agreement". At the same time, there is always the risk that flaunting the nationalism of others will trigger emulation and hardening in areas - such as the Caucasus - traditionally marked by ethnic clashes. On the other hand, Bishop Bizzeti does not hesitate to evaluate Turkey's decision to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to the passage of warships. "The Turkish authorities - notes the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia - have applied the Montreux Convention, an agreement dating back to 1936 according to which, in times of war, if Turkey is neutral, it can prevent warships from entering the Sea Black. I consider Turkey's move to be courageous, considering the great economic and strategic interests surrounding the transit of ships entering and leaving the Black Sea". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 1/3/2022)