POPE-ISTANBUL Sep-7-2005 (380 words) xxxi
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top Vatican official said he expects Pope Benedict to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, in late November for a meeting with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who coordinates ecumenical dialogue at the Vatican, said Patriarch Bartholomew had issued the invitation the day after the pope's election last April.
"I referred this proposal to the pope, who welcomed it with great pleasure. I think Pope Benedict will make the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew," Cardinal Kasper told the Italian Catholic news agency SIR in early September.
Speaking at a Vatican press conference Sept. 8, Cardinal Kasper said the Vatican was holding talks with the Turkish government to work out a final agreement on the visit.
Each year, the Vatican sends a delegation to Istanbul for the celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the ecumenical patriarchate, and the patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome for the June 29 celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Vatican patrons.
Patriarch Bartholomew personally attended the Sts. Peter and Paul liturgy in June 2004 and invited Pope John Paul II to return the visit in November, but the late pope's health made the trip impossible.
Pope John Paul traveled to Istanbul in 1979 to underline the church's continuing ecumenical commitment. Before him, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras held a groundbreaking meeting in 1964 in the Holy Land.
Pope Benedict has said repeatedly that he wants to make ecumenism a priority of his pontificate.
Patriarch Bartholomew, who holds a place of special honor among the world's Orthodox leaders, welcomed Pope Benedict's election and said it was a sign of hope for ecumenism.
"The new pope, an excellent theologian, will value our church's wealth of theology and spirituality and wishes to cooperate with it and support theological dialogue," Patriarch Bartholomew said in a statement April 20.
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.
Turkey's bid to join the EU was scheduled to be discussed in October.
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