Catholics in the majority-Muslim country of Turkey will soon celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Saint Paul, who was born in the region.
The faithful have requested that the Turkish government permit celebrations at St. Paul Church in Tarsus, the birthplace of the missionary. The church is now a state-owned museum.
Bishop Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia, told Ecumenical News International about the plans.
"This anniversary is certain to attract large numbers of pilgrims, who will obviously need a church where they can feel at home and pray," said Bishop Padovese.
"A government commission is now formally considering our request. But senior officials have agreed we should be able to worship here.
"After all, we're not missionaries - we are merely answering the needs of church members."
Bishop Padovese said that a pastoral letter will be read in all Catholic churches in Turkey on January 25, the date celebrating the anniversary of St. Paul’s conversion to Christianity.
Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2008 to be the Year of St. Paul.