Turkish President Invites Pope to Visit in '06

Patriarch Proposed Date to Be Feast of St. Andrew

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ANKARA, Turkey, SEPT. 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Turkey’s president extended a much anticipated invitation to Benedict XVI to visit his country in 2006.

In a press statement issued Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer «follows closely the efforts displayed by Benedict XVI to reinforce dialogue and tolerance between religions.»

In order to «contribute to these efforts oriented to promoting dialogue between civilizations,» he «has invited Benedict XVI to make an official visit in the year 2006,» stated the text, clarifying that a response is now expected from the Vatican.

Patriarch Bartholomew I had invited the Pontiff in June to visit Istanbul on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Church of Constantinople.

During a press conference Sept. 8, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, confirmed the Pope’s intention to accept the invitation.

«We were expecting this news,» said Bishop Ruggero Franceschini, president of the Turkey’s episcopal conference.

Bishop Franceschini told the Italian bishops’ SIR news agency that he hopes this visit will serve for the Pope to be able to speak with the Turkish authorities on the juridical recognition of the Church, which is yet to take place.

«The visit would be, in addition, an opportunity to make everyone know about the reality of the Turkish Church,» added the prelate.

The vast majority of Turkey’s 69 million inhabitants are Muslims. Catholics number about 35,000.

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