Pope Francis on rare Turkey visit

Pope Francis on rare Turkey visit


The Pope to visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate and meet with Patriarch Bartholomew today

Pope Francis visited Erdogan’s palace in a modest car

Pope Francis: “May god always watch over Turkey”

By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara

Pope Francis began his three-day visit to Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to promote religious dialogue.

“I call on everyone to pray, so that this journey brings peace and honest dialogue between religions and mutual understanding with the Turkish nation”, said the Pontiff, before his departure for Turkey.

There are big expectations from this visit in Fanar, with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in an interview with the newspaper of the Italian Catholic bishops’ “L’Avenire”, stating that “the sincere embrace in peace and friendship among the Primates of Rome and Constantinople indicates the desire to cross the path indicated by our Lord Jesus Christ, to be one”.

The meeting with Erdogan

The first stop of the Pontiff in his three-day tour was Ankara, where he visited Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the “White Palace” in Ankara. He is the first foreign leader to visit the new presidential palace, in which the Turkish president was just recently resided.

In the “palace gate”, the Pope was greeted by the cavalry of the presidential guard and led him to the entrance of the presidential palace in his modest non armored car Fiat Albea he had chosen.

In a joint Erdogan-Francis press conference, the Turkish president after welcoming the Pope accused the West for “creating phobia against Islam and the equating with terrorism”, but also admitted that some Islamic organizations help in creating this impression, like the Islamic State”.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church said that “Turkey is showing great interest in the refugees from Syria, who are not only Christians”. After praising the actions of Ankara for peace in the region, Pope Francis said: “May god always watch over Turkey”.

This was preceded by the Pope’s visit to the Mausoleum of Kemal in Ankara as dictated by the Turkish protocol. The Turks were impressed when Francis prayed in front of the Mausoleum.

Frequent visits during the governance of AKP

To date, four pontiff visited Turkey. It is striking that the two visits took place during the government of pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP), one of them was Benedict in 2006 and the second that of Francis. They were preceded by the visit of Paul VI in 1967 and Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Pope Francis values the relation with the Muslim world

Turkey attaches great importance to the presence of the Pope.

Francis is in favor of dialogue with the Muslim world and he had written that “the correct reading of the Qur’an proves that authentic Islam is against any kind of violence”.

Other actions that have impressed the Muslim world is the celebration of the traditional rite in juvenile prison in 2013, where he washed the feet of ten boys and two girls, the latter being a Catholic and a Muslim.

At the same time he had organised soccer match between religions for peaceful purposes.

In the meeting with Erdogan he discussed the situation of refugees from Syria, as well as the threat of Islamic State. Pope Francis expressed his fears for the threats to Christians in the Middle East by jihadists. However, in a journalist’s question last week on “whether it is possible dialogue with the Islamic State” had replied that “even if there is no dialogue all the doors shouldn’t be closed”.

Important visit to Fanar

The aim is the continuation of talks for the unification of the two Churches

Pope Francis will visit Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and will participate in an ecumenical prayer at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in Fanar, while he will also sign a joint declaration with the Ecumenical Patriarch, of whom he is a close friend.

This will be followed by a meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, who was invited in June to the Vatican for the ecumenical prayer for peace in the Holy Land in the presence of Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres.

On Sunday, the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church will participate in the celebration of St. Andrew with the Ecumenical Patriarch, followed by the signing of a joint Declaration.

The Vatican spokesman Father Lombardy said that “the common desire and effort aimed at the unification, so that they can respond to the will of Jesus, is the main reason why the meetings of Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is taking place”.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in a statement said that “the Pope’s visit shows respect for the Orthodox Church. This meeting will contribute to further strengthening our relations. The unification of all the Churches is our sincere desire”, concluded Fanar’s statement.