Pope Francis may visit Turkey Nov. 29-30, strengthening the links with the Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and advancing their common commitment to ecumenism, peace and ecology. The possible papal voyage to Turkey was discussed by Nikos Tzoitis, an expert in ecumenical dialogue who had served as spokesperson of Patriarch Bartholomew, to whom he is very close. “Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis have often met and spoken about the opportunity of a papal visit. The Pope would go, there is just one last hurdle to overcome,” Tzoitis told CNA Sep. 5. That “hurdle” is the lack of an official invitation from the Turkish government. According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the formal invitation has not been made because the new Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, only took his post on Aug. 28. “Erdogan will sign the invitation in the first days of the coming week, and this will be delivered to the Vatican,” La Repubblica writes. Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey could further strengthen relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Holy See. Since Pope Francis was elected, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has carried forward its commitment to ecumenical dialogue. Bartholomew I attended Pope Francis’ installation Mass on March 19, 2013. He was the first Ecumenical Patriarch ever to take part in such an event. Pope Francis and Bartholomew I have met several times. They issued a joint declaration during the Pope’s voyage to Jordan and Israel. They worked together to hold the Invocation for Peace in the Middle East held at the Vatican Gardens June 8. In the meantime, Bartholomew I has been committed to organizing a pan-Orthodox synod in an attempt to transcend the divisions among the Orthodox Churches and to move towards an internal unity that would favor dialogue with Rome. Relations between the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch and the Pope have been so close, in fact, that there has been talk that they could release a joint encyclical letter on the topic of human ecology. In addition to issuing their own separate documents, Tzoitis said that “the Patriarchate and the Church of Rome agreed to jointly draft all the documents of common concern,” including those on ecology.
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