Ten years ago I became convinced of Turkey’s importance as the “Holy Land of the Church.”
Israel is the Holy Land of Jesus because there we can immerse ourselves in the events of his birth, mission, death on the cross, and resurrection.
But we seldom realize that the land we now call Turkey was the home of the earliest communities being formed in the likeness of Christ through the ministry of Paul and the other apostles. During the following centuries, this land and its people were the at the heart of an ongoing struggle to discover how the original message of Jesus could be understood and lived throughout the ages among diverse peoples.
Turkey is the place where the Church grew up, and its holy sites include not just the places where St. Paul visited or the Seven Churches of Revelation, but also the places where the Christian Church formed its identity. Pope Benedict XVI rightly called Turkey the “Holy Land of the Church.”
Here we can immerse ourselves in treasures of our heritage. Here we can see how the first generations of Christians lived their faith, and in learning about them we can understand more deeply how we believe today . . . and why.
It’s a lot like exploring the attic of your grandparents’ house. Look closely at the itinerary. Each place we will visit has been carefully chosen to open a door on an ancient world that will help us to understand our world today, and live in it with renewed faith. The past gives meaning to our present, and hope for our future.
I have led Pilgrimages to Turkey many times over the past ten years, and am eager again to share its treasures. I invite you to join on this wonderful adventure.