Benedict XVI will visit Turkey this year
The news about the murder of Father Santoro in Trabzon, Turkey, was released together with the announcement of the official visit of Benedict XVI to Turkey. The head of the office of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer told the paper 'Hurriyet' that the Pope would visit the country on 28 November 2006. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman, confirmed that information, adding that the visit would last three days, on 28-30 November. This date is not accidental since the Pope intends to see Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I on the feast of St. Andrew. The Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the head of the Catholic Church, on the Chair of St Peter, whereas the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, on the Chair of St Andrew, is the honorary head among the Orthodox patriarchs, he is primus inter pares - a first among equals.
The Pope wanted to make the trip last year because Bartholomew I had invited the Pope to join him for the celebration of that feast day at the beginning of his pontificate. Unfortunately, the Turkish government thwarted the trip, which had to be postponed (popes visit other countries only when they are invited by the local church and the government).
Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey will not be a precedent. Paul VI and John Paul II visited the country, too. Paul VI went to the country on the Bosporus in 1967, his main aim being to meet Patriarch Atenagoras who was a sincere promoter of the ecumenical dialogue. Paul VI had had the occasion to meet him in Jerusalem three years earlier. Apart from the meeting with the patriarch Paul VI had meetings with the local Catholic and Assyrian communities, the Armenian Patriarch Kalustian and the representatives of the Jewish community.
John Paul II went to Turkey in the second year of his pontificate in 1979. He spent three days there, from 28 to 30 November, and he met Dimitrios I, the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch (the result of the encounter was the joint declaration to appoint a mixed Catholic-Orthodox commission on theological dialogue). John Paul II visited Ephesus and Smyrna, the ancient cities that played a great role in the early Church. On the occasion of that visit the Turkish press published a letter of some Ali Agca who said he would kill John Paul II.