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Pope's Visit to Turkey Seeks to Unify Faith and Reason, Not Pursue Dialogue with Islam, Duke Professor Says

Contact: James Todd, Duke University News & Communications, 919-681-8061,; Güven Güzelderecan be reached at 919-660-3068 or through Nov. 30; beginning Dec. 1 he can be reached in Turkey at 011-90-538-526-5468.


DURHAM, N.C., Nov. 28 /Standard Newswire/ -- Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Istanbul is not primarily about making a diplomatic gesture toward Turkey or Islam, but a philosophical and political move to embrace the faith and reason he sees shared by Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, says a Duke University professor.


"This pope is an academic pope," said Guven Guzeldere, a professor of philosophy at Duke who is from Turkey. "He is not so much focused on the politics of the day or a dialogue between Islam and Christianity as positioning Catholicism in alliance with Orthodoxy."


Güzeldereteaches a summer study abroad course in Istanbul called "Thinking about God: The Nature of Religious Belief at the Crossroads of Judaism, Christianity and Islam." He will travel on Thursday to Turkey to give a talk on the intersection of philosophy and brain science.


"In the pope's mind, the European and Christian identity has been shaped in a very fundamental way by the rational philosophical inquiry that was developed in ancient Greece," Güzelderesaid. "By visiting the Patriarch of Constantinople [the head of the Orthodox churches], the pope wants to recover some of the rational roots of faith he believes are preserved in Orthodox Christianity."


Güzelderesaid the pope's visit is also a political move that would bring together Orthodoxy and Catholicism and situate them against Protestantism.


"The pope thinks this is particularly important in this day and age because he thinks Protestantism took the rational essence out of Christianity and set up the modern contrasts of science versus religion and faith versus reason," Güzelderesaid.


"He also wants to situate this Greco-Roman Christian concept of God who acts according to reason against what he considers the Muslim concept of a transcendent God who is not bound by rationality."


Güzelderesaid he has found the pope's reading of Islamic theology "surprisingly cursory, and given the deep theological disagreements between the Orthodox and Catholic treatment of issues such as the Immaculate Conception, purgatory and the professed infallibility of the pope, a profound allegiance of the two churches seems more like a bit of wishful thinking."


NOTE TO BROADCAST EDITORS: Duke provides an on-campus satellite uplink facility for live or pre-recorded television interviews. We are also equipped with ISDN connectivity for radio interviews. Broadcast reporters should contact the Office of Radio-TV Services at 919-681-8067 to arrange an interview.