|Pope Francis shakes hands with the head of Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Gormez (L.) - AP|
(Vatican Radio) On the first day of his apostolic trip to Turkey, Pope Francis said religious leaders “are obliged” to denounce violence in the name of religion. He also appealed for more international assistance for the thousands of refugees from nearby Iraq and Syria, who have taken refuge in Turkey.
Upon arriving in Ankara on Friday afternoon, the Pope stopped at a mausoleum, where the remains of Turkey’s founder are buried—part of protocol for all visiting heads of state—before visiting with President Recep Tayip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace and with the head of the country’s Department of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Gormez.
Vatican Radio journalist Philippa Hitchen is on the ground, covering the Pope’s three-day apostolic journey. She shared the highlights of the first day in a nutshell.
On Saturday, the Pope will travel to Istanbul, where he is expected to visit several historic sites, including Santa Sofia, a former basilica, which had been converted into a mosque in the 15th century and is now a museum. He is then expected to visit one of Istanbul’s most important mosques, the Sultan Ahmet, also known as the “Blue Mosque”. He is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Catholic Holy Spirit Cathedral in the afternoon.
The evening is to include ecumenical prayer at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St George, followed by a private meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.