Pope Francis to go to Turkey in November … and maybe Iraq

posted at 5:21 pm on September 9, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Actually, a visit to Turkey by Pope Francis would be notable enough, given the move away from the Kemalist demand of secularism in the almost-completely Muslim state. There may be even more to the trip than just reminding the world of the important Christian heritage in Turkey, though.  According to Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín of Crux, Pope Francis might push his way to the Iraqi frontier during a visit that may catch observers by surprise:

Pope Francis intends to travel to Turkey at the end of November, a trip that may take him to the border with Iraq in a demonstration of the pontiff’s concern for the violence there and the plight of refugees from the self-declared Islamic state, including an estimated 100,000 Christians.

Officials of the Turkish embassy to the Vatican confirmed to Crux that preparations for the trip are underway, which should see the pontiff in Istanbul on Nov. 30 for the feast of St. Andrew, considered the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Francis is also expected to make a stop in Ankara, the national capital, for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdogan. At the moment, the Vatican is waiting for a formal invitation to the pontiff from Erdogan before announcing the outing.

Armenian public radio has confirmed the story based on remarks made during a private audience with the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican. Pope Francis committed the trip, which will include Armenia as well.  It will be widely interpreted as an attempt to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East and act as a show of solidarity for their suffering:

Pope Francis has confirmed during a private audience with the Turkish Ambassador to the Holy See, Kenan Gürsoy, that he hopes to travel to Turkey in the near future, Daily Sabah reports.

The 77-year-old pontiff’s comments came on Monday as Gürsoy visited him to bid farewell, as the ambassador is due to leave Rome following the end of his assignment. …

He is expected to use the visit to call for an end to the killing of Middle Eastern Christians in Iraq and Syria.

Last month in off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis issued an extraordinary call for the global community to act, in order to stop the “unjust aggression” of ISIS and other terrorists conducting genocide and ethno-religious cleansing in the region. At that time, Francis told reporters on the plane leaving Seoul that he wanted to visit northern Iraq in solidarity, but that he realized that it was an impossibility.

This would be the next-best thing. A visit by the Pope to the border would focus immediate attention on the genocide against Christians and other minorities in the region, and it might also produce some attention on Turkey’s role in fueling ISIS during the earlier days of the conflict. The Turkish military — a NATO partner, let’s not forget — would put a great show in fortifying the border defenses, especially to protect the Pontiff, which would raise the profile even further. And if he manages to successfully visit the border, will Pope Francis be tempted to step across it as a symbolic gesture of defiance in the face of evil? I wouldn’t bet against it, although the Turks would be rightly anxious about any such attempt.

The Turks won’t be the only people embarrassed by late November if other nations don’t act soon. Francis called for action on August 18th, but the UN has yet to meet to plan a response to these mass atrocities. Barack Obama will finally get around to announcing an American strategy that will almost certainly rely on a multilateral alliance, and possibly very heavily on a pledge from the Arab League to do something about the Sunni extremists that were initially on their side in the Syrian conflict. The US continues its air strikes, but that hasn’t changed the situation on the ground for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and heterodox Muslims targeted for genocide by ISIS.

Consider this an act of shaming, and a pre-emptive act at that. Pope Francis seems to be telling world leaders that if they can’t come together to do what’s right, he’s going to make their individual and collective failures obvious by the end of November. The clock is ticking.

Addendum: The trip is notable too for the status of the ecumenical relationship between the Catholic Church and Orthodox patriarchs. As Martín notes in Crux, the Patriarchate of Constantinople (the traditional name) is considered the “first among equals” of the Orthodox churches, and a key figure for any attempt at reconciliation between the apostolic Christian faiths. If Francis’ trip to the border will have a shaming quality for a world that has turned a blind eye to the persecution of Christians, the visit to the Patriarch has a more humble and reciprocal quality after the Patriarch’s attendance at Francis’ investiture as Pope last year. 


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Comments

I seriously believe he would not survive the experience.

E9RET on September 9, 2014 at 5:23 PM

I’m really not interested unless he’s going to use the words “holy war” and promise to put the vatican’s full resources behind it. Otherwise, shut up Francis.

Diluculo on September 9, 2014 at 5:23 PM

So, the Swiss Guard are going to protect him?

Blake on September 9, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Great timing. You’ll be able to combine posts with the annual Thanksgiving post with Mr. Carlson and “flying” turkeys.

Flange on September 9, 2014 at 5:25 PM

this will do just about as much good as having Ban Ki-moon come visit.

i.e., none whatsoever.

“Hey! I didn’t get a ‘Harrupmh’ out of that guy!”

WaldoTJ on September 9, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Strange how the only world leader with testicular fortitude… is celibate.

DarthBrooks on September 9, 2014 at 5:37 PM

I wish him well on his trip. He might want to reconsider that Pope Mobile.

WisRich on September 9, 2014 at 5:37 PM

I wish him well on his trip. He might want to reconsider that Pope Mobile.

WisRich

Can you put a bubble on a M1A1 and still fire the main gun??

E9RET on September 9, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Sure, Comrade Pope who gets muzzies to pray at the Vatican will shame the same muzzies on their own land for killing Christians .

burrata on September 9, 2014 at 5:43 PM

So…. what happens if ISIS manages to kill the Pope? I mean, really–what would happen?

Anything? Europe’s too secular to care, right? South and Central America would, but they can’t do anything. Putin wouldn’t care; only if the Russian Orthodox church guy got offed would he care.

Obama would probably cheer ISIS on.
Canada and Australia might do something, but that’s about it, right? Poland, except all their troops are watching Soviet troops like a hawk….

Vanceone on September 9, 2014 at 5:45 PM

A Target that ISIS would do ANYTHING to get.

Only God could return him safely.

portlandon on September 9, 2014 at 5:49 PM

So, the Swiss Guard are going to protect him?

Blake on September 9, 2014 at 5:24 PM

They are real soldiers with all sorts of lethal equipment. Numbers aren’t that high though.

rbj on September 9, 2014 at 5:50 PM

A Target that ISIS would do ANYTHING to get.

Only God could return him safely.

portlandon on September 9, 2014 at 5:49 PM

We could witness a miracle on CNN.

DarkCurrent on September 9, 2014 at 5:55 PM

A Target that ISIS would do ANYTHING to get.

Only God could return him safely.

portlandon on September 9, 2014 at 5:49 PM

If ISIS killed or kidnapped the Pope, there would be such outrage among Catholics that there would soon be many “boots on the ground” against ISIS.

This is a very brave stance from Pope Francis, who apparently realizes that ISIS is a worse threat than many others around the world. It should be remembered that while Pope John Paul II actively urged the liberation of his country (Poland) and the rest of eastern Europe from the Soviet Union, he was against the U.S. intervention to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Pope Francis seems to consider ISIS a greater threat than Saddam Hussein.

Steve Z on September 9, 2014 at 6:01 PM

********** Pope has Le Guts *******************!!

canopfor on September 9, 2014 at 6:04 PM

In order to highlight the threat of genocide, the pope will visit the nation which perpetrated the Armenian genocide a century ago, which to this day aggressively denies it ever took place, and which has only become more islamist in the time since? And from there the pope’s itinerary takes him to Armenia itself?

I could hardly think up a more uncomfortable journey. It reminds me of his chosen namesake St.Francis’ attempts to reach out to Muslim leaders, even in the midst of prolonged war. I can only hope and pray this trip, if it happens, has some good effect.

paul1149 on September 9, 2014 at 6:07 PM

A Target that ISIS would do ANYTHING to get.

Only God could return him safely.

portlandon on September 9, 2014 at 5:49 PM

If ISIS managed to kill or kidnap Pope Francis, there would be such outrage among Catholics that there would be lots of “boots on the ground” to obliterate ISIS.

Pope Francis is taking a very brave stance, and must consider ISIS a very serious threat. It should be remembered that while Pope John Paul II actively worked for freedom of his own country (Poland) and the rest of Eastern Europe against the Soviet Union, JP2 was against the U.S. intervention in Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein. Pope Francis probably considers ISIS an even greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein.

Steve Z on September 9, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Let me know when he calls for a Crusade to protect the Christians like Urban II did. Then I will be both impressed and inspired. Show me where I can sign up!

jephthah on September 9, 2014 at 6:16 PM

I know he’s a “Commie” but he’s got guts, & sometimes guts is all it takes… to paraphrase Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.

IF ISIS kills or kidnaps him, NOTHING happens…I try not to be too cynical, but I just don’t see Obama or (Non-Christian) Europe working up enough “care” to care or act….

JFKY on September 9, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Emulating his namesake.

St. Francis traveled to Egypt during the Fifth Crusade on a peace mission to meet with the Sultan and convert him to Christianity.

It didn’t work. Better luck this time.

kcewa on September 9, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Let me know when he calls for a Crusade to protect the Christians like Urban II did. Then I will be both impressed and inspired. Show me where I can sign up!

jephthah on September 9, 2014 at 6:16 PM

No kidding. Until then he is just another leftist desperately clinging to his world view. How many of his Swiss Guard and others will die for this publicity stunt?

WryTrvllr on September 9, 2014 at 7:00 PM

So, the Swiss Guard are going to protect him?

Blake on September 9, 2014 at 5:24 PM

What? You think ISIS wouldn’t feel intimidated?

whatcat on September 9, 2014 at 7:18 PM

Pope going into Iraq?

Yea, History is full of unforced errors like that.

HopeHeFails on September 9, 2014 at 8:11 PM

The bigger threat is Russia. They have nukes – and now the will to use them. Putin’s goal is to end NATO … and ending NATO means an end to American dominance in the world – and all the nasty things that go along with that.

And Putin is working on a TWO-YEAR timeline … he knows that his luck may run out if a competent POTUS succeeds Obama.

By contrast – ISIS is an island surrounded by hostile nations that will kill it if we do not.

Let them kill it … we have a much bigger fish to catch.

HondaV65 on September 9, 2014 at 8:41 PM

This seems insignificant unless you’re Catholic.

Bigbullets on September 9, 2014 at 8:44 PM