Pope Francis Preps for a Visit to Turkey

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ROME - Pope Francis is making preparations for a possible visit to Turkey at the end of November, officials and a Vatican source said Tuesday. A senior source inside the Holy See told NBC News that "the trip to Turkey has been planned for a while," but added it was not yet confirmed. The Vatican is awaiting a formal invitation from Turkey's new President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before announcing the planned trip, Hasan Sekizkok, from Turkey's Embassy at the Vatican, told NBC News.

Sekizkok said the plans came about through Francis' friendship with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians, whose residence is in Istanbul. "We are at the preliminary stages regarding the program of the trip," Sekizkok said. The Boston Globe's Catholic news site Crux reported the trip could include a visit to Iraq's border. Francis has been vocal about the crisis in Iraq, which borders Turkey and has a Christian population of about 100,000. While the Vatican source didn't rule out a trip to the border, it said any such journey would be "more complicated" due to security concerns.


- Claudio Lavanga and Alexander Smith