The Vatican is playing a clever political game these days with Turkey. As you probably know the Apostle Paul came from Tarsus, which now lies within the national boundaries of Turkey, near the Syrian border. In Tarsus, there is a church that has been used by the Muslims as a feed store but since 1990 has been a museum. It draws a large number of tourists every year but Turkish authorities have employed a number of petty rules to make it difficult for Roman Catholics to use the church for Mass.
Now the pope intends to change all that. For some time, he has been under pressure from a couple of his cardinals to push Turkey to grant free access to the church in Tarsus and now he has come up with the way to do it. Turkey is in the process of gaining entrance into the European Union and cannot make enemies among the major players in the EU. So the Vatican has enlisted the help of Germany in her approach to Turkey. The deal is that is Turkey will give the Vatican the right to have free use of the church in Tarsus, Germany (where there are millions of Turkish immigrants) will make it easier for Muslims to build mosques. So, whatever the state of local opinion in Tarsus, Turkey must play ball with the Vatican.
I find it interesting that the pope should show such an interest in the birthplace of the Apostle Paul because if there is one thing that the entire Church of Rome has consistently repudiated it is the gospel as preached by Paul. For example, Paul stated emphatically, "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28). He explained this further by stating, "God imputeth righteousness without works" (Romans 4:6). His meaning is clear and beyond doubt but that has not stopped the Church of Rome contradicting it and that in the most unambiguous language. The definitive statement by the Church of Rome on the subject of justification is that given by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. So completely did that document state the Roman Catholic position on justification that even the Second Vatican Council made no attempt to redefine its position or even to refine the statement of Trent. And what is that statement? Listen carefully: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified...: let him be anathema." And again, "If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice [righteousness] of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, ... or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favor of God: let him be anathema" (On Justification, Canon ix, xi).In other words, what Paul expressly teaches the Church of Rome expressly anathematizes. It seems a bit hypocritical to be so insistent on gaining use of a church in Tarsus just because Paul was born there when you so vehemently curse the message Paul delivered. Of course, the curse works both ways, for Paul just as insistently stated that if anyone, even an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel than he preached, "let him be accursed [anathema]" (Galatians 1:8, 9). The Vatican may find a way around Turkish red tape but it cannot wheedle its way out of the denunciation of the great apostle.