Pope Francis to Visit Turkey in Late November
Pope Francis is planning to visit Turkey in the last days of November at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Vatican announced on Friday.
The Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters the Holy See had received a formal invitation from Turkey’s head of state earlier in the day, but that the exact date and programme of the visit had yet to be finalised.
The Roman Catholic leader has already received an invitation from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, considered first among equals among Orthodox bishops, to visit Istanbul on November 30, feast of St Andrew, one of the apostles and patron saint of Constantinople.
After Pope Francis’ election in March 2013 Bartholomew became the first Patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal inaugural mass. They have since met during the Pope’s trip to the Middle East earlier this year, when they prayed together in Jerusalem, and at the Vatican in June when they joined in prayers for peace with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents.
The AP highlighted in its coverage of the news that “perhaps more importantly” than marking the Orthodox feast of St Andrew, the visit to Turkey will give Pope Francis ”the chance to visit a Muslim nation at a time when Christians are being targeted by Islamic militants in Iraq.”
Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted the country’s ambassador to the Vatican Kenan Gursoy as saying Pope Francis is expected to make a two day visit on November 29-30, stopping in Ankara on the first day before travelling to Istanbul.
The pontiff has paid official visits to Brazil, the Middle East and South Korea since his election. He will visit Albania on September 21 and address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on November 25.
Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit Turkey, after St John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
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