Bartholomew has said that he is eager to meet with Benedict
Thursday, February 9, 2006 · Last updated 6:14 p.m. PT
Pope accepts invitation to visit Turkey
By NICOLE WINFIELD
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI will make his first official visit to a
Muslim country, visiting Turkey in November, the Vatican announced Thursday.
The pope accepted an invitation by the Turkish president to visit the
country Nov. 28-30 and details of the visit were being worked out, Vatican
spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.
Confirmation of the trip came days after the killing of an Italian Roman
Catholic priest at a church in Turkey's Black Sea Coast. The Vatican
newspaper has said that the death of Rev. Andrea Santoro was part of recent
tension in the Muslim world over the publication of caricatures of the
Benedict said this week that he hoped "the sacrifice of (Santoro's) life
will contribute to the cause of dialogue between religions and peace among
Vatican Radio on Thursday reported what it said were the contents of a
letter Santoro had written to the pope five days before he was killed, in
which he invited Benedict to visit his small parish. "A visit by you, even
if brief, would be consoling and encouraging" to the faithful, Santoro wrote.
Thousands of people filed by Santoro's coffin Thursday in a church in a
Rome parish where he had served for years before being posted in Turkey.
The pope's planned visit to the overwhelmingly Muslim nation coincides with
the Christian feast day of St. Andrew on Nov. 30.
St. Andrew was one of the apostles of Christ who traveled across Asia Minor
and is considered the father of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the
Byzantine name for the present city of Istanbul.
Andrew's contemporary, St. Peter, traveled West and founded the church in
Rome. The two churches were united until the Great Schism of 1054,
precipitated largely by disagreements over the primacy of the pope.
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, who has his headquarters in Istanbul, had
hoped that the pontiff would have celebrated the feast with him last year.
But instead of approving a visit then, the Turkish government issued its
own invitation to Benedict for some time in 2006.
Bartholomew has said that he is eager to meet with Benedict this year as
part of efforts on both sides to heal the 1,000-year-old rift. Benedict has
said that healing the rift is a "fundamental" priority of his pontificate.
While only a few thousand Orthodox worshippers remain in Istanbul,
Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of some 250 million Orthodox Christians
The Orthodox Church says it is the oldest religious organization in Turkey,
established in 381.