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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006, 19:24 GMT
Pope meets world Orthodox leader
Pope Benedict XVI (left) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during a service at the St George Church
The two leaders held a joint prayer service in Istanbul
Pope Benedict XVI has met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Turkey, on the second day of a landmark visit to the largely Muslim country.

The Istanbul talks with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians aimed to heal an old rift.

Earlier, the Pope held Mass near a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the ancient western city of Ephesus.

The four-day visit to Turkey has been overshadowed by comments the Pope made in September about Islam.

The meeting with Bartholomew - who heads a community of some 250 million Christians around the world - was the original reason for the pontiff's decision to travel to Turkey.

29 Nov:
  • Goes to Ephesus to celebrate mass at site where Virgin Mary believed to have died
  • Goes to Istanbul to meet Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church, for first of series of encounters
  • 1 Dec: Visits Haghia Sophia (6th Century Byzantine church converted into mosque in 1453, then transformed into museum in 1935) and Blue Mosque

    The two leaders began their meeting by holding a joint prayer service at the St George Church in Istanbul.

    The two ancient branches of Christianity - the Eastern and the Western rites - split nearly 1,000 years ago over disputes including papal authority.

    In Istanbul, Benedict will also meet faith leaders and visit the city's famous Blue Mosque. He is also scheduled to lead Mass in a cathedral.

    Istanbul was once Constantinople - the centre of the Byzantine empire, but now the largest city in a secular Turkish republic.


    The service in Ephesus was the only open-air Mass Pope Benedict was to say in Turkey, for a congregation of some 500 Catholics brought to the shrine by special invitation.

    Nuns greet Pope Benedict XVI as he arrives in Ephesus
    The Pope was in Ephesus to visit a shrine to the Virgin Mary
    The Pope visited the small stone house set in the lush green hillside where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last days.

    It is visited every year by tens of thousands of pilgrims.

    He also honoured the memory of a Roman Catholic priest who was killed amid Muslim anger over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

    "Let us sing joyfully, even when we're tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Roman priest John Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration," he said.

    It's such a shame that the Pope's visit was overshadowed by protests before his arrival
    Serkan, Istanbul

    There is only a tiny Catholic community left in Turkey and many in the congregation were foreigners who live in the country and some had travelled from the Mediterranean coast for the occasion.

    Call for dialogue

    On Tuesday, Pope Benedict called for an "authentic dialogue" between Christians and Muslims in a speech at Turkey's directorate of religious affairs.

    He said the exchange must be "based on truth and inspired by a sincere wish to know one another better".

    I want to reiterate the solidarity between the cultures - this is our duty
    Pope Benedict XVI

    The visit has been overshadowed by angry protests by Turkish Muslims.

    Tens of thousands of people protested in Istanbul at the weekend, calling on the Pope to stay away or apologise for comments he made about Islam in a speech in September.

    Speaking to an academic audience in Germany, the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterised Islam as a violent religion.

    While the Pope insisted the remarks did not reflect his own views, the speech was widely reported and caused anger across the Islamic world.

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