Vatican and Turkey indicate pope will visit this year, likely November

Vatican officials said Saturday that a date had been set for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey, with Turkish foreign ministry officials indicating the trip would come in late November.

Vatican officials did not reveal the date, but in Ankara foreign ministry officials indicated that the pontiff would visit the predominantly Muslim nation in late fall, with the journey likely to coincide with the Nov. 30 feast day of St. Andrew.

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, who has his headquarters in Istanbul, had hoped that the pontiff would have celebrated the saint's feast day there with him last Nov. 30.

But the Turkish government, instead of approving of a visit then, issued its own invitation to Benedict for sometime in 2006.

St. Andrew, who traveled across Asia Minor, is considered the father of the patriarchate of Constantinople, the Byzantine name for the present-day city of Istanbul.

The spiritual leader of the world's 200 million-plus Orthodox Christians, Bartholomew said earlier this month that he is eager to meet with Benedict this year as part of efforts on both sides to heal the long-standing rift between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Benedict has embraced the determination of his predecessor, John Paul II, to improve relations among Christians, AP reported. V.A.

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