Turkish Govt invite for Pope
The government of Turkey has invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the country in 2006, apparently ruling out a hoped-for papal visit this year.
Catholic News Service reports that Turkey's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer was inviting the pope to come to Turkey next year in order to help "strengthen dialogue between civilizations."
The Foreign Ministry said Turkey was closely following the new pope's efforts to promote interreligious dialogue and tolerance. It said the government was awaiting a response from the Vatican to its invitation.
The Vatican press office had no immediate comment on the Turkish announcement.
Only a week earlier, Vatican officials had expressed hope that the pope would be able to travel in late November of this year for a meeting with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who invited the pope several months ago.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who coordinates ecumenical dialogue at the Vatican, said a week ago that the pope had welcomed the Orthodox leader's invitation and hoped to make the trip on 30 November for the feast of St. Andrew.
Cardinal Kasper said at the time that the Vatican was holding talks with Turkish authorities to reach a final agreement on the visit.
The pope's visit has political overtones in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country that has been trying to gain membership in the European Union. Turkey's bid to join the EU was scheduled to be discussed in October.
Several months before his election, Pope Benedict -- then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- said he thought it would be a mistake to admit Turkey to the European Union, citing historical and cultural differences. Turkish officials replied that the Vatican was extraneous to the EU membership issue.
Turkish government invites pope to visit in 2006 (Catholic News Service 15/9/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Turkish Foreign Ministry
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
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16 Sep 2005