Monday, January 08, 2007

Bertone on Turkey

Sandro Magister has extracts from an interview given by Cardinal Bertone to a French Catholic magazine.

Bertone prefaces his remarks by saying that the Catholic Church does not have any “particular power to favor Turkey’s entry into Europe or to veto it.” But he immediately adds that “without Turkey, Europe would no longer benefit from that bridge between East and West that Turkey has always been throughout history.”

How he belittles the Church's influence. A cunning ploy. As for the 'bridge' remark, I made that same point awhile ago. I must have a fan.

Having been archbishop of Genoa until last summer, the Vatican secretary of state recalls that “Turkey has long been one of Europe’s partners. For example, the Republic of Genoa maintained good relations with the Turks, and it was in order to trade with them that England obtained the flag of Saint George from the Genoese, with the aim of passing within the Ottoman gates.”

Is this before or after Lepanto and Vienna? Did the archbishop just admit his city was trading with the enemy while Christendom was engaged in a life and death struggle against territorial ambitions of the Turkish Empire? (A joke...)

As for today’s Turkey, the cardinal emphasizes that the country “has a distinctly secular system and a regime that tends toward greater democracy. It is in Europe’s interest to help the country to become a true democracy, to consolidate a system of values more and more. Leaving Turkey outside of Europe risks, furthermore, favoring Islamist fundamentalism within the country.”

'Distinctly' and 'tends toward greater'... Such qualifies and fine distinctions... The comment about Islamic fundamentalism is valid to a point. However, I would submit that as a country becomes more and more Westernized, that is when the Islamists truly come to the fore. Look at Iran and the Shah, the Saudis and their oil wealth, etc. Be careful what you wish for, Your Eminence.

About the concrete forms of Turkey’s membership, Bertone hypothesizes that “integration within Europe could be realized in concentric circles, with an inner circle of the historically European countries currently united within the euro zone, and a second level for those that are more distant from this.”

Perhaps. The last thing Europe needs is letting in countries that may or may not be even technically in Europe geographically. The continent is having a hard enough time keeping its own economy going.

In the same interview, cardinal Bertone also touches upon relations between Christianity and Islam after Benedict XVI’s lecture at the University of Regensburg:

“The clarifications made by the pope brought an understanding of his clear intention to develop, beginning with his address in Regensburg, a debate on faith and reason. This had nothing at all to do with a polemic with Muslims, whom he did not stigmatize. Besides, a short time later there were Muslin intellectuals and leaders who understood this well. The Church’s role in interreligious dialogue is well known beyond the confines of the Church itself. [...] For some observers, after the pope’s trip to Turkey 'polemics about Regensburg are now ancient history.'”

Which is good.

Regarding the Turkish EU bid, this is what I said before:

However! Just because a modern nation-state can claim to be a part of the European historical tapestry, it should not be entitled to automatic inclusion into what is not a cultural organization. The European Union is (aside from behing a huge bureaucratic mess) a political and economic supra-national organization with various delegated powers. Its purpose is not cultural exchange or preserving European culture. If Turkey is going to be admitted into the European Union, it should be admitted according to present-day criteria (rule of law, personal liberty, etc.).

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