Recently, Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of the Catholic world, came into our lives twice. The first occasion was his meeting with our president and the director of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), Mehmet Görmez, during his visit to Turkey, while the second was composed of his somewhat unique attitude in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which the pontiff accused the provoking side of the incident and pleased the Islamic world by declaring that "one cannot react violently, but if [someone] says something bad about my mother, he can expect a punch." The newspaper's occasional disrespectful portrayal of the Catholic Church and the papacy must certainly have had a role to play in this attitude of the pontiff. Indeed, the newspaper in question is well known for its hateful remarks about various religious communities except for Jews, as Westerns are well aware of the consequences of anti-Semitism.
In recent years, a German academic also offended Muslims in Germany with hateful remarks about Islam. But as soon as the gentleman made the same remarks about Jews he was almost lynched by the Germans, thanks to which the Muslims got rid of a scholar who was full of hate toward their religion.
The meeting between the pontiff and Görmez was an interesting occasion, as the meeting between the spiritual leaders of the Catholic world and Turkish Muslims. Although Christianity is composed of three – Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant – main denominations and Islam is divided into three major sects – Sunni, Shiite and Salafi, the pope and the DİB constitute the leading figures of their respective religions. Despite the fact that the latter's religious realm of authority is confined only to its country's borders, Turkey still holds, as the pontiff well knows, both the political and religious leadership of Islam.
When we examine their speeches from the meeting, Görmez gave an excellent speech enriched by various quotations from the Psalms, Torah, Bible and Quran, while the pope talked about the classic democratic values of the Western world. Thus, one suspects whether the pope has nothing left to preach to the world in the name of religion.
Before his visit to Turkey, Francis asked that he be welcomed by a simple automobile, but Turkey declined that demand for manifest security reasons. Yet, everybody knows that the Vatican is as rich as Croesus. From the capital hidden in Swiss banks and large shares in various industrial establishments to the religious share of national revenues and all kinds of donations, the wealth of the Vatican is, in one word, immense. It is also well-known that the pope himself uses five to six planes and a luxurious fleet of Mercedes automobiles. Then, from where did the pope's passion for modesty emerge?
In the last period, the Gülen Movement, which the government calls the "parallel structure," raised its hostility against the government and the DİB to the level of enmity toward the state and religion. Their recent solidarity with the newspaper Hürriyet hints at the possible magnitude of their future threat for Turkey. The pope's intimacy with the Gülen Movement might lie behind its recent modesty. As DİB bought a new model of Mercedes automobile during that period, both Hürriyet and media affiliated with the Gülen Movement frequently wrote about the modesty of the pope in comparison with DİB's luxurious consumption. Their main purpose of such a portrayal was not to critique DİB's financial management, but by comparing it with the pope, they laid bare their own enmity toward Islam itself.
Yet a question remains to be addressed both by the Hürriyet and the Gülen Movement: Are those the toy planes of his papal highness?