Pope Francis is planning a trip to the Turkish-Iraqi border in November of this year.
The trip will give him the opportunity to visit with Christian and Yazidi refugees who have been driven from the homes by ISIS.
If the trip does not fall through it will place the Holy Father in relatively close proximity to the fighting. Rumors were rife a few days ago that ISIS had targeted Pope Francis for assassination. The Vatican said there was “nothing to” the concerns.
I don’t know what to make of all this except to say that ISIS has shown itself to be glutton for media attention and high profile murder. There is no one on this planet more high profile than the Vicar of Christ.
ROME — Pope Francis intends to travel to Turkey at the end of November, a trip that may take him to the border with Iraq in a demonstration of the pontiff’s concern for the violence there and the plight of refugees from the self-declared Islamic state, including an estimated 100,000 Christians.
Officials of the Turkish embassy to the Vatican confirmed to Crux that preparations for the trip are underway, which should see the pontiff in Istanbul on Nov. 30 for the feast of St. Andrew, considered the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Francis is also expected to make a stop in Ankara, the national capital, for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdogan. At the moment, the Vatican is waiting for a formal invitation to the pontiff from Erdogan before announcing the outing.
The invitation for Francis to visit Turkey was first extended at the beginning of his papacy by Bartholomew I, the first Patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal inaugural Mass.
Since then the two men have struck up a partnership, with Bartholomew meeting Francis on his May trip to the Middle East and later joining him for a peace prayer with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents in the Vatican gardens on June 8.
Interest in making the trip has been enhanced by recent developments in Iraq. During an airborne press conference on the way back from a trip to South Korea in mid-August, Francis expressed an interest in visiting Iraq but said for the moment such a journey is “not the best thing to do.”
His outing in November is likely the closest the pontiff will be able to get to Iraq itself, and will give him the opportunity to meet Iraqi refugees.
An embassy official said that Turkey, a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority estimated at 99 percent of the population, is currently “doing everything in its power” to welcome Christians and Yazidis who have been forced out of their homes in both Iraq and border regions of Turkey itself by ISIS forces.