Patriarch would welcome Pope Francis visit to Turkey

Awaiting invitation from Turkish government, Athenagoras

09 September, 18:26

    (by Fausto Gasparroni) (ANSAmed) - ANTWERP (BLEGIUM), SEPTEMBER 9 - The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople expects Pope Francis to visit Turkey in late November for St Andrew's Day, and would welcome him to Fanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    The news came from Orthodox Metropolitan Athenagoras, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, during a meeting of the Sant'Egidio Community in Antwerp. He said that the visit might take place November 29-30.

    ''This depends on the Turkish government,'' he said, noting that it had yet to officially invite the pope. In 1967, Pope Paul VI visited Fanar when the Patriarchate was under Athenagoras. Pope John Paul II did the same in 1979 under Patriarch Dimitrios, and in 2006 Pope Benedict XVI visited Fanar during the time of the present patriarch, Bartholomew. ''We know,'' he said, ''that His Holiness Pope Francis has expressed the desire to visit Fanar.'' ''We are prepared to welcome him,'' said the metropolitan.

    ''He would first go to Ankara to visit the president and the head of government,'' however. ''The following day, November 30,'' he added, '''there is the liturgy of St Andrew, the patron saint of the Church of Constantinople, and His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch and the 12 members of the Holy Synod - I am one of them - will celebrate together the liturgy in the presence of the pope. He will be welcomed by a number of metropolitans and taken to a small throne in front of the throne of the patriarch. He will then receive the Symbol of the Faith of Nicene-Constantinople, as expression of his participation in our liturgy. Then a Catholic mass is planned in a Catholic church in Istanbul, where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is.'' The metropolitan, whose mission is in Belgium, by showing their unity, the two Churches can ''show that Christians want to speak in unison about the tragic situations in the Middle East, where Christians are currently persecuted. They can also highlight the lack of unity in Ukraine, where Orthodox Christians and some Catholics are fighting for nationalistic ends. In this way the two heads of Churches can make an appeal to all Christians to do more for unity between them.'' Athenagoras showed doubt over whether Pope Francis might also visit Armenia during the same trip. ''I think it is very unlikely,'' he said. ''If he goes, he might do so at another time. It wouldn't be a good idea to combine the two, since in 2015 there are likely to be many problems in Turkey due to the centenary of the persecution of Armenians and the 'genocide' of them.'' (ANSAmed).

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