Blue Mosque on Pope itinerary for Turkey
The Vatican has released details of the Pope’s next overseas trip, to Turkey from 28th-30th November.
While prayers and meetings with Orthodox leaders dominate the schedule, he also will meet Government leaders and visit Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.
His visit to this secular but Muslim country of nearly 77 million people also offers the opportunity for Pope Francis to join Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for celebrations in Istanbul of the feast of St Andrew.
The Pope and the patriarch send delegations to each other’s churches each year for the celebrations of their patron saints’ feast days: the Vatican’s 29th June feast of Sts Peter and Paul and the Orthodox churches’ 30th November feast of St Andrew.
While the Pope will pray with and meet privately with Patriarch Bartholomew and attend his celebration of the 30th November feast day liturgy in Istanbul, he will also visit the city’s Hagia Sophia Museum, an architectural masterpiece once regarded as the finest church of the Christian Byzantine Empire. It was later converted into a mosque in the 15th century and then turned into a museum in 1935 after Turkey became a secular state.
Pope Francis will visit the grandiose Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or the Blue Mosque, as it is often called because of the turquoise ceramic tiles that adorn the 400-year-old structure’s interior.
The scheduled stops underline Turkey’s varied cultural heritage and history as being at the crossroads of Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East.
The first day of his trip, which will be spent in Ankara, the capital, will be dedicated to relations with the Turkish government.