Pope Benedict sets off historic visit to Turkey
(CIHAN) - Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of the world's Catholics, is today setting off for a long-awaited and historic visit to Turkey at the invitation of President Ahmet Necdet Seze, reports Trend.
Pope Benedict is expected to arrive in Turkish capital Ankara around noon. President Sezer will receive the pontiff with an official state ceremony at the Presidential Palace. Following his visit to the Mausoleum of AtatСЊrk, the Pope will also meet Prof. Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Directorate of Religious Affairs.
The Pope is scheduled to meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is set to leave for NATO summit in Latvia, at the VIP lounge of Ankara's Esenboga Airport. The meeting is expected to last about half an hour. Deputy PM Mehmet Ali Sahin will also meet Benedict XVI on behalf of the Turkish government.
On the second day of his visit, Pope will move on to Istanbul where he is expected to meet Bartholomew I, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and Isaac Haleva, the chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in Turkey.
After paying a visit to the House of Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Izmir the Pope will return to Istanbul where he will visit the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Blue Mosque.
About 2,000 journalists have arrived in Istanbul to follow the papal visit, which is his first visit to a predominantly Muslim country. Istanbul Governor Muammer GСЊler has announced that no demonstrations will be allowed during the papal visit.
Turkish security forces are on highest alert. Around 3,000 Turkish policemen will be on duty during Pope's approximately 20-hour stay in capital Ankara and very strict security measures have been implemented in Ankara and Istanbul.