VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican press office has published a general outline of the itinerary and agenda for Benedict XVI’s upcoming apostolic trip to Turkey.
Vatican Radio, directed by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who also heads the press office, completed details of the program for the Nov. 28-Dec. 1 trip.
The Pope will leave from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28. He will arrive at the Esenboga airport at Ankara, the Turkish capital, at 1 p.m., local time.
The Holy Father will first visit the Mausoleum of Ataturk, “Father of the Turks,” who proclaimed the Turkish republic in 1923.
Subsequently, the welcome ceremony will take place as well as a courtesy visit to Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
The Pontiff will then meet with the deputy prime minister before meeting with the president of religious affairs, Ali Bardokoglu, Grand Mufti and highest Muslim authority, at his headquarters, and with the diplomatic corps in the Apostolic Nunciature. The Holy Father will deliver addresses to each.
The following day, Benedict XVI will travel to Smyrna, the country’s third-largest city, known as “The Pearl of the Aegean,” from where he will go to Ephesus, the city where the Apostle Paul lived and was captive, and where, according to tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist also lived.
In Ephesus, Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass at the Meryem Ana Evi (House of Mary) Shrine and deliver a homily. It was in this city that a Council in the year 431 proclaimed the Virgin Mary “Theotokos,” of Mother of God.
On that Wednesday afternoon, the Holy Father will fly from Smyrna to Istanbul — formerly Constantinople — where he will visit and pray at the Patriarchal Church of St. George and have a private meeting with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The Pope will greet him at the patriarchate’s headquarters.
On Thursday morning, Nov. 30, Benedict XVI will take part in the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul. He will deliver an address and sign a joint declaration.
The Pontiff will thus fulfill the original objective of his trip: to respond to the invitation of Patriarch Bartholomew I to take part on the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the patriarchate, observed on Nov. 30.
After the ceremony, the Holy Father will lunch with Bartholomew I in the patriarchate. In the afternoon, he will visit the St. Sophia Museum.
Then Benedict XVI will go to the Armenian Apostolic cathedral, where he will pray and meet and greet Patriarch Mesrob I.
That same afternoon, the Pope will meet with the Syro-Orthodox metropolitan and the chief rabbi of Turkey.
Finally the Holy Father will meet and dine with the members of the country’s Catholic bishops’ conference.
On Friday, Dec. 1, Benedict XVI will preside over the celebration of Mass in Istanbul’s Cathedral of the Holy Ghost and deliver a homily.
It will be his last appointment, as he will then go to the city’s airport and, after the farewell ceremony, depart at 1:15 p.m. for Rome’s Ciampino airport.
Previous visits of Roman Pontiffs to Turkey took place in 1967 (Paul VI) and 1979 (John Paul II).
About 99% of Turkey’s 70 million inhabitants are Muslim, the majority Sunni. Catholics represent 0.04% of the population.