Pope Francis to make three-day visit to Turkey

Vatican unveils schedule for Pontiff's visit to Ankara and Istanbul as conflict grips the region

Pope Francis to make three-day visit to Turkey

World Bulletin/News Desk

Pope Francis is set to become the fourth Pope to visit Turkey after the Vatican published details of a three-day visit to Ankara and Istanbul.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on Tuesday that Pope Francis was scheduled to touch down on Turkish soil at 1 p.m (10.00 GMT) on November 28, in Ankara, and leave at 4.45 p.m. (13:45 GMT) on November 30 from Istanbul.  

Lombardi, said in a statement: "Accepting the invitation of the president of the (Turkish) Republic, of His Holiness Bartholomew and the president of the (Turkish) Bishops’ Conference, Pope Francis will make an apostolic visit to Turkey from November 28 to 30, travelling to Ankara and to Istanbul."

During the first day of his visit, Pope is expected to visit the Ataturk's Mausoleum, meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have an audience with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and visit the President of Religious Affairs Mehmet Gormez.

He will fly on November 29 from Ankara to Istanbul where he is scheduled to visit the Hagia Sofia Museum and Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque.

'Difficult time'

The Pontiff will hold a Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and privately meet the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I later in the day.

He will also sign a Common Declaration towards religious unity and have lunch with Bartholomew I on the last day of his visit, during which he is scheduled to make three speeches.

Pope Francis will be the fourth Pope to visit Turkey after Pope Paul VI in1967, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

The visit will come three days after he addresses the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, France, during a difficult time for people of various religions in the Middle East and at a time that Turkey is hosting more than one-and-a-half-million Syrian refugees.

Syria's civil war has left more than 191, 000 people dead since it began three years-and-a-half ago, according to a UN report released in August.

Iraqi Christians have also fled their homes in fear of their lives in the face of attacks by ISIL militants, with most of them arriving in Turkey.

Asked whether the Pope may visit refugees from Syria or Iraq during his visit to Turkey, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told reporters it had not been ruled out as "the programme has not yet been defined". 

A U.S.-led coalition is continuing to strike ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria in an effort to help Iraqi government forces and Kurdish security forces fighting the group.

Turkey declared on Monday that it will help Kurdish security forces (known as Peshmerga) to cross the border and pass from Iraq to Syria, where Kurds are fighting ISIL militants in the border city of Kobani. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Ekim 2014, 10:51

Muhammed Öylek