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A record visit

· Details of Pope Francis' visits to Strasbourg and Turkey announced ·

Pope Francis' fifth and sixth international visit — first to Strasbourg on 25 November and then to Turkey from 28-30 November — will break various records. The Director of the Holy See Press Office Fr Lombardi explained to journalists on Monday, 17 November, the various details of both visits, which will take place only two days apart. This is the first time this has happened and is due to the schedule of the European Parliament and the day on which the Feast of St Andrew is celebrated. Pope Francis was invited by Patriarch Bartholomew to Turkey to celebrate this feast.

His visit to Strasbourg will be the shortest international visit ever made by a Pontiff. In less than four hours the Pope will deliver two addresses: one to the European Parliament and the other to the Council of Europe. Therefore, the visit will neither be pastoral nor religious. Francis will speak to both assemblies and will likely touch on themes relative to the problems and responsibilities of the continent. Much anticipation surrounds his upcoming addresses since the last time that a Pope went to these institutions the Berlin Wall was still standing. John Paul II went to France in October 1988.

Meanwhile the Holy Father's visit to Turkey will be much different. The visit will be part of tradition which began with Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli's love for the country. His successors also continued this tradition of travelling to Turkey: Paul VI (1967), John Paul II (1979) and Benedict XVI (2006).

This visit will also be quite brief. The three-day visit includes many significant appointments. On 28 November Pope Francis will travel to Ankara to meet and address the President of the Republic and the President of the Department for Religious Affairs (Diyanet). The following days in Istanbul will be centered on ecumenism and fraternal relations between religions. On Saturday, after being welcomed by the Patriarch Bartholomew and the Governor of Istanbul, the Holy Father will visit the Hagia Sophia Museum which tells the story of the ties between Christianity and Islam. Next the Pope will visit the Blue Mosque, where he will be greeted by the Grand Mufti and an imam. That same day in the see of the pontifical representation Francis will meet with representatives of the local Catholic communities and in the afternoon he will celebrate Mass in the Latin Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and participate in a short ecumenical prayer.

Sunday, after meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Turkey, the Pope will participate in the divine liturgy for the Feast of St Andrew in the Church of St George. On this occasion, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will sign a joint declaration which will solemnly be read in the hall of the patriarchate. 

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