Pope Francis will travel to Turkey in November

Source: FSSPX News

At the invitation of the government, of the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and of the Catholic bishops, the Pope will make a trip to Turkey from November 28-30.  After his arrival in the airport in Ankara, he will travel to the tomb of Atatürk, following protocol, then to the presidential palace, where he will meet with the head of State, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  He will give a speech to government officials, after which he will converse with the head of the Turkish government.  Then he will pay a visit to the head of the department of religious affairs, Mehmet Görmez.

The following day, Saturday, November 29, Pope Francis will travel by airplane to Istanbul, where he will visit Hagia Sofia—the sixth-century Christian basilica that was transformed into a mosque in the fifteenth century and then into a museum in the mid-1930’s—and the Blue Mosque, before celebrating Mass in Holy Spirit Cathedral.  In the afternoon he will go to Phanar to participate in an ecumenical prayer service in Saint George Church of the Orthodox Patriarchate, after which he will speak privately with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople.  There are several thousand Greek Orthodox faithful in Turkey.

On Sunday, November 30, the Feast of Saint Andrew, after celebrating a private Mass at the Apostolic Delegation, the Pope will go to the patriarchal Church of Saint George to sign a joint declaration with Bartholomew I.  After lunch in the company of his host, he will go to the airport to travel back to Rome in the late afternoon.

Speaking to journalists on October 21, Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, explained that “the meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch is one of the important reasons for this trip.”  It will be along the lines of the ecumenical meeting that took place with Patriarch Bartholomew during the journey of Pope Francis to the Holy Land from May 24 to 26, 2014.  (See DICI no. 297 dated June 6, 2014)

Recall that for five centuries Christians were subject to forced Islamization, and the Ottoman Empire ended in the blood spilled by Christians in the Armenian genocide.  In 1915, the nationalist regime that had just come to power, adopted a secularist policy and as a sign of appeasement for the Christians turned the mosque/basilica of Hagia Sofia into a museum;  this brings to light again the ancient mosaics of the Christian basilica, freeing them from the coat of whitewash applied when the building was a mosque.

Church statistics note that Turkey has an area of 774,815 square kilometers and 76,140,000 inhabitants, of whom only 53,000 (0.07%) are Catholics.  The Catholic Church has 7 ecclesiastical districts, 54 parishes and 13 pastoral centers, with 6 bishops, 58 priests, 2 deacons, 4 seminarists, 61 religious (both men and women), 2 consecrated persons, 7 lay missionaries and 68 catechists.  The Church runs 23 educational institutions at all levels and 6 specialized centers, 3 hospitals, 2 dispensaries and 5 retreat houses.

(Sources:  apic/VIS/aed – DICI no. 304 dated November 7, 2014)

For further reading :
Turkey: Will the Basilica-Museum St. Sophie Become a Mosque?