Pope Meets Head of Worldwide Orthodox Church

Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, has met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Turkey on the second day of his tour to the predominantly Muslim country.

|PIC1|Continuing on a path of conciliation, the talks with Bartholomew aimed to mend historical divisions with the worldwide Orthodox Church.

Prior to his meeting with Bartholomew, the Pope visited Ephesus, an ancient city which is said to be the place where Jesus' mother Mary lived out the last days of her life.

The service in Ephesus was held in front of a congregation of approximately 500 Catholics brought to the shrine by special invitation.

The Pope paid tribute to the Roman Catholic priest who was killed following Muslim anger over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Europe.

He said, "Let us sing joyfully, even when we're tested by difficulties and dangers, as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Roman priest John Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration."

Reports have stated that the Pope's comments on his visit so far have greatly helped to make amends for remarks he made in a September speech in Germany, where he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Islam was violent and irrational. Although the Pope has stated he in no way agreed with or endorsed the remarks in the quote, the speech still angered Muslims worldwide, and initially threw his planned visit to Turkey into doubt.

Prior to the Pope's arrival, it was greatly feared that large protests would be seen all over the country. However, the fears seem to have been unfounded, with only two, small and peaceful demonstrations taking place so far in Ankara.

Turkey has nonetheless deployed snipers to buildings near papal events to ensure that nothing unsavoury should happen which would be catastrophic to the image of the country as it continues its efforts to enter the European Union.

The meeting with Bartholomew, who is the spiritual head of 250 million Christians worldwide, was the original purpose of Pope Benedict's trip to Turkey.

At the start of the meeting, the two leaders held a joint prayer service at the St George Church in Istanbul. The two ancient branches of Christianity - the Eastern and the Western rites - split nearly 1,000 years ago over various divisions including the great authority the Catholic Church gives to the Pope.

Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, was the capital of the Byzantine Empire for more than 1,000 years until it was conquered by Muslim forces in 1453. Pope Benedict will spend the final two days of his Turkey trip there as the guest of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

On Tuesday, Pope Benedict called for "authentic dialogue" to take place between Christians and Muslims. He said the discussions had to be "based on truth and inspired by a sincere wish to know one another better".

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