Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Saturday welcomed Pope Francis at the Ataturk International airport in Istanbul for a two-day visit. Accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch to the airport were Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Archbishop Demetrios of America and Grand Archdeacon Andreas Sofianopoulos.
The Pope arrived in Istanbul from Ankara, where he paid a one-day official visit as leader of the Vatican state. From the airport, the Pope visited the old city, the St. Sophia Cathedral, and the Blue Mosque.
Pope Francis was enthusiastically greeted with the ringing of church bells upon arrival at the Ecumenical Patriarchate today on the occasion of the celebration of St. Andrew the Apostle, patron saint of the Church of Constantinople, the Byzantine name for present-day Istanbul. The Pope was received at the patriarchal gate by the Elder Metropolitans of Nicaea and Chalcedon. The Ecumenical Patriarch then escorted the Pope into the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George.
The two leaders followed the Doxology Service, a prayer for thanksgiving and peace, after which they blessed the faithful crowded inside the Patriarchal Cathedral. Also in attendance were the consul generals of Istanbul. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presented Pope Francis with an icon of St. George painted on Mt. Athos. In return, Pope Francis offered to His All-Holiness a facsimile copy of an eleventh-century Greek manuscript from the Vatican library and a copy of ninth-century mosaic of Christ from St. Peter’s Basilica.
Afterward, the Pope was received in the patriarchal office for a private discussion with His All-Holiness. Before leaving, Pope Francis was introduced to the members of the Holy and Sacred Synod.
On Sunday morning, November 30th, Pope Francis will attend the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral, where both prelates will deliver official addresses, exchange the kiss of peace and together bless the faithful. After the Divine Liturgy, a joint declaration will be signed and the Patriarch will host a luncheon for the Pope at the Patriarchate.