VATICAN - Ahead of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has issued the following statement:
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox faithful worldwide, will receive Pope Francis on November 29-30, 2014, at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
Pope Francis' visit to Istanbul comes at the personal invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch on the occasion of the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, the older brother of Saint Peter.
St. Andrew is considered the first-century founder of the Church of Constantinople, the former name for present-day Istanbul. The invitation was originally extended by Patriarch Bartholomew to Pope Francis at the papal inaugural Mass on March 19, 2013. Both prelates are noted throughout the world as peacemakers and bridge-builders of truth and love across religious, cultural and ethnic divides.
"We are eagerly awaiting the visit of our brother, Pope Francis," said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. "It will be yet another significant step in our positive relations as sister Churches."
On Saturday afternoon, November 29th, Pope Francis will arrive at the Phanar and be received by His All-Holiness in order to participate in a Doxology of peace and thanksgiving at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George. The prayer service will be followed by a private meeting between the two Church leaders. Prior to this event, His All-Holiness will attend Mass at the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.
On Sunday morning, November 30th, Pope Francis will attend the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral, where both prelates will deliver official addresses, exchange the kiss of peace and together bless the faithful. After the Divine Liturgy, a joint declaration will be signed and the Patriarch will host a luncheon for the Pope at the Patriarchate.
His All-Holiness Bartholomew is the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. He is the 269th successor of the 2,000-year old local Christian Church founded by St. Andrew. As a citizen of Turkey, His All-Holiness's personal experience offers a unique perspective on the vital dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
For his inspiring efforts on behalf of religious freedom and human rights, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.