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Reports: Pope Francis to visit Turkey in November

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople embrace during an ecumenical celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in May (CNS)

Pope Francis will pay an official visit to Turkey at the end of November, according to reports.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) have reported that Pope Francis’s visit may take place from November 29 to 30, a trip that will see him meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

After Pope Francis’s election Bartholomew I became the first Patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal inaugural Mass. The two men have since met during the Pope’s trip to the Middle East earlier this year, when they prayed together in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and at the Vatican in June when they joined in prayers for peace with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents.

Nikos Tzoitis, a former spokesperson of Patriarch Bartholomew, told CNA: “Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have often met and spoken about the opportunity of a papal visit. The Pope would go, there is just one last hurdle to overcome.”

The “hurdle” which Mr Tzoitis referred to is thought to be the fact that Turkey is yet to issue an official invitation to the pontiff. Bartholomew I invited him earlier this summer and, according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the new Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will sign an invitation in the coming week.

Francis is expected to visit the Turkish capital of Ankara on November 29 followed by Istanbul on the following day, where he will celebrate the feast of Saint Andrew.

According to Crux, the trip may include a visit to Turkey’s border with Iraq in a show of support by the Pope for Christians currently being persecuted by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq.