Living Holy Week with the International Fraternity for Dialogue in Istanbul

Holy Week is a special time of the year. It is the moment when Brothers, together with the people they serve, recommit themselves to living the joy of the Gospel. This is particularly true for the Brothers of the International Fraternity for Dialogue.

The International Fraternity for Dialogue was established by then-Minister General Jose Carballo as an expression of the Order’s commitment to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue (CCGG art. 93-95). Its founding home is the parish of St. Maria Draperis in Istanbul, Turkey, where the Brothers also serve the parish of St. Louis on the grounds of the French Consulate. Three years ago, they opened a second house in Izmir, where they serve the parishes of Holy Spirit and St. Mary.

As only 0.05% of the population of Turkey is Catholic, everything the Brothers do entails dialogue – from the dialogues of life and work to the dialogues of spiritual and theological exchange. While Islam is Turkey’s predominant faith (98% of the population), making Muslims their major dialogue partners – from Sunnis and Alawites to Sufi masters and curious searchers – the Brothers also have excellent relationships with the Orthodox Churches, as well as with Protestant communities.

This diversity marked every aspect of Holy Week, from Monday’s ecumenical prison ministry to Easter Vigils that brought together the parishes’ Italian-, English-, French- and Spanish-speaking communities. In between were multi-lingual penance services, blessings from church leaders, and visits from the cities’ Muslim mayors. Since Catholic parishes are so intimate, many liturgies were held in common to enhance that felt sense of unity which lies at the heart of the Paschal Mystery.

One quickly feels the Church’s catholicity in Turkey, where Christians are daily called to give common witness to the Gospel, especially in the face of the daunting challenges confronting them. Given Turkey’s historical place at the crossroads of Christianity, from St. Paul’s journeys to today’s migration of Middle Eastern and African refugees, is this surprising? It is such catholicity that enables the Brothers to live the joy of Holy Week throughout the year.

The best way to come to know the Fraternity is to visit the Brothers. Their doors are always open, especially in October for their annual Course on Dialogue. People can also visit their website (www.istanbulofm.org) and watch their documentary Together on the Way, available on YouTube.

The International Fraternity for Dialogue is directly under obedience to the Minister General. It welcomes Brothers from throughout the world desiring to serve in it on either a temporary or permanent basis. Interested Brothers should contact the Guardian, Br. Eleuthere Makuta, for more information (makutaba@yahoo.fr).