Pope's visit to Turkey shows 'respect to Orthodox church'
Fifty years ago, in January 1964, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras of Istanbul and Pope Paul VI met in Jerusalem, for the first time since the 11th century, to begin a historic dialogue to lift nearly 1,000 years of division between the West and the East churches Anadolu Agency reported
This weekend, Pope Francis will be the fourth pontiff to visit Turkey in an effort to further ties between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches, of which the division - often referred to as the Great Schism -- dates back to 1054.
"His visit will be a continuation of the dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics started 50 years ago," Istanbul-based Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate said in a written statement to Anadolu Agency.
The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is one of the pontiff's principal stops in Istanbul. The Pope will privately meet with Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox churches.
Historically, the divide between the two churches roughly follows the lines of the separation between the western Latin Roman Empire and the Eastern Empire - also known as the Byzantine Empire.
Although they shared the same faith, the two traditions have remained divided, over, among other issues, theological differences.
Bartholomew I had attended the inaugural mass of the Pope in Vatican in March 2013 and had invited him to the Patriarchate.
"His visit shows respect to the Orthodox church. This respect will definitely contribute in strengthening the relations," the Patriarchate's statement said. "The unity of all churches is our sincere wish," it added.
Last month, the 76-year-old Argentinian pontiff delivered a speech to the Orientale Lumen Foundation, where he said he wished to "overcome the obstacles that still divide us," during his visit to Turkey. According to the Vatican, the pontiff also said he hoped to build stronger ties between the two churches.
During his visit, the spiritual leader of the world's one billion Catholics will also meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey's head of religious affairs department, Mehmet Gormez. The pontiff will hold a Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and pay a visit to Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul.