Pope Francis is in Turkey. This trip aimed at building bridges with Islam and supporting the Christian minorities of the Middle East. Pope Francis is the fourth pope to visit Turkey after Pope Benedict in 2006, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Paul VI in 1967.
During the 3 days visit, In Ankara Pope Francis visited the mausoleum of the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
In Istanbul Pope Francis conducted a prayer alongside a senior Islamic cleric in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Pope marvelled at the vast scale of the Blue Mosque, so known for the elaborate blue tiles that adorn its interior, which sits on a hill overlooking the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara.
Pope Francis also paid a visit to the Hagia Sophia, the most important cathedral of Orthodoxy for almost 1,000 years. Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered the city of Constatinople and the building was converted into a museum in 1934 by the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Pope's visit was followed by a mass in the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics sat alongside Bartholomew I, head of the 300 million Orthodox believers worldwide. Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, also known as the St. Esprit Cathedral or Cattedrale di Santo Spirito or Cattedrale dello Spirito Santo is the second largest Roman Catholic Church in the city of Istanbul after the Basilica of St. Antonio di Padova on İstiklal Avenue in Beyoğlu. The church was built in Baroque style in 1846 under the direction of the Swiss-Italian architect Giuseppe Fossati and his colleague Julien Hillereau. St. Esprit has been a destination of several papal visits to Turkey, including those of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI. A statue of Pope Benedict XV stands in the courtyard of the cathedral. Giuseppe Donizetti, a musician at the court of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, is buried in the vaults of the church.
The pope's next stop was the Orthodox Patriarchal Church of St. George which is the fifth Patriarchal church in Constantinople and home to the Ecumenical Patriarchate since the fifteenth century.
The mixed Christian community in Turkey is very small, estimated at about 80,000 in a country of 75 million, and only the few Roman Catholics regard the pope as their spiritual leader.