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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pope seeks unity with Orthodox Christians on last day of Turkey visit


Pope Francis wrapped up his three-day visit to Turkey on Sunday with a liturgy alongside the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians and a meeting with young refugees who have fled Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones.

Hypnotic chants echoed in the Orthodox Church of St. George as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I greeted Francis for the liturgy marking an important feast day for the Orthodox Church. The two men are to issue a joint declaration afterward.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over differences on the primacy of the papacy, and there was a time when patriarchs had to kiss popes' feet. At the end of a joint prayer service Saturday evening, Francis bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing "for me and the Church of Rome," a remarkable display of papal deference to an Orthodox patriarch that underscored Francis' hope to end the schism.

Later Sunday, Francis was to meet with a few dozen young refugees being cared for by the Salesian religious order. The Vatican had downplayed the meeting, perhaps because of organizational problems, or to not to distract from Francis' ecumenical activities which were the main reason for the visit.

But just before the trip began, the Vatican revealed that he would indeed deliver a speech to the youths.

The absence of a dedicated visit had raised eyebrows given that refugees are a primary concern for Francis, and he met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees during his Jordan visit in May.

Turkey is currently hosting some 1.6 million refugees who were forced to flee their homes by the Islamic State group, which is grabbing up chunks of territory in neighboring Syria and Iraq.



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