.- The Turkish Government official invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Muslim country next year, although the original proposal of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, was to invite the pope to celebrate the Orthodox feast of Saint Andrew in November of this year. According to a press release from the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer, “invited Pope Benedict XVI to make an official visit to Turkey in 2006” to “reinforce the dialogue between religions in a global context.” The Vatican did not answer yet to this invitation.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, which holds his see in Istanbul, recently invited the Holy Father to visit Turkey on November 30th , to participate to the celebration of the Feast of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the Orthodox Church. Bartholomew I is at the head of more than 200 million Orthodox Christians.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, announced last week the Pope’s intention to travel to Turkey, and assured he waited for the government’s official invitation to further prepare this trip.
It is now a tradition, that the Vatican sends a delegation to Turkey to participate to this celebration, in return the Orthodox Church sends a delegation to Rome for the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on June 29th.
Pope Benedict would be the second pope to travel to Turkey. His predecessor John Paul II, visited the country in 1979, shortly after his election as Pope.