Friday, November 16, 2012
Visit to Istanbul
One of the highlights of my recent visit to Istanbul was meeting the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartolomeo. Here he is giving out small crosses and a pamphlet about icons to the group of Franciscan Brothers and Sisters who attended the On-Going Formation Course in Istanbul October 14--30. We pray for the Ecumenical Patriarch every day at our friaries.
In addition to visiting the ecumenical Patriarch and talking with different lecturers about ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, we got to visit the teeming, beautiful bazaars in Istanbul. The crowds, food, and eager salesmen were quite a trip. They tried to sell me carpets, saying "Only $1,500 US!" At first I laughed and shrugged them off, but one fellow pursued me, so I finally took him aside and said: "Look, I am a monk (forget trying to explain friar), I have no money. I am just here to see and enjoy your beautiful country and I am so happy to be able to visit this bazaar." He brightened at that and said: "You must come visit my father!" He dragged me into a shop, my heart sinking. "A Christian holy man!" he told the bearded old man. They crowed around, shaking my hand. "Many blessings!" they said.
Another highlight was a trip to what was once Ephesus, and here we are visiting the home of the blessed Virgin Mary. Reportedly St. John brought her here after the Ascension. We celebrated Holy Eucharist. It is a beautiful place.
My part in the program was to give a paper talking about the ecumenical and interfaith work of the Society of St. Francis. I was the only Anglican at the conference, so my presence and our conversation was "practice" with ecumenical dialogue. The thing we discovered is that our denominational differences were nowhere as significant as the Franciscan familial bonding and the transcending reality of a shared Franciscan spirituality. Three brothers heading off after the time in Istanbul to South Sudan to establish a new friary there, said to me: "Come visit! We must work together in Sudan!" What a lovely thought.