Pope Francis to visit Turkey in late November

The Vatican has confirmed reports that Pope Francis will visit Turkey next month, announcing Tuesday the pontiff will visit Ankara and Istanbul Nov. 28-30.

Francis will make the trip at the request of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Turkish bishops, the Vatican said in a brief statement.

According to the schedule of the trip released by the Vatican, the pope will land in the Turkish capital of Ankara Nov. 28 and will spend that day making visits with Turkish government officials.

He will then fly to Istanbul on Nov. 29, visiting the Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque for its blue tiling. He will then celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit before hosting ecumenical prayer and a private meeting with Bartholomew, considered "first among equals" in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Before leaving Nov. 30, the pontiff will meet again with the patriarch, and the two are expected to issue some sort of joint statement. 

The November trip will be Francis' sixth outside Italy as pontiff, after trips to Brazil, the Holy Land, South Korea, Albania and France. The pope is traveling to Strasbourg in France on Nov. 25, where he is to address the European Parliament.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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