.- The Holy See has published the official schedule for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey, which will take place November 28 to December 1 and will include meetings with various political leaders and representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well as with leaders of Islam and Judaism.
On Tuesday, November 28, the Pope will arrive in Ankara at 1pm. The day’s activities will include a visit to Atatürk Mausoleum, the welcome ceremony, a visit to the President of Turkey followed by meetings with the deputy prime minister, the president for religious affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, and the Diplomatic Corps. Bardakoglu, who was one of the harshest critics of the Pope’s lecture in Ratisbona last September, has since said that the visit would be “a positive step toward developing dialogue between Islam and Christianity.”
On Wednesday, November 29, the Pope will celebrate Mass at Ephesus, where tradition says the Virgin Mary resided. Later, in Istanbul, he will go to pray at the patriarchal Church of St. Gorge followed by a private meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
On Thursday November 30, the Feast of St. Andrew, the Pope will participate in a “Divine Liturgy” with Bartholomew I at the patriarchal Church of St. George, after which they will sign a joint declaration. Later he will make a visit to the once great Cathedral of Hagia Sophia (which is now a museum) and to the Apostolic Armenian Cathedral, where he will meet with Patriarch Mesrob II. Afterwards he will meet with the Grand Rabbi of Turkey and then have dinner with the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey.
On Friday, December 1, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Holy Spirit Cathedral, and then, after a farewell ceremony, he will depart for Rome.
This will be third visit to Turkey by a Pope. Pope Paul VI visited in 1967 and Pope John Paul II in 1979.