Skip Navigation Links

Pope meets Patriarch

Why has the "Pilgrim Pope" made his history-making trip to Turkey?
What is the real significance of the Pope's meeting with the Patriarch of Greek Orthodoxy?
Will the 1,000-yearold breach between Orthodox and Catholics be repaired?
When and how will real religious unity be brought about?


Istanbul, Turkey

AN AIR of excitement filled the 2,000 spectators at Istanbul Airport.

A 200-strong guard of honor stood smartly at attention. A military band awaited tensely the command to begin playing the Pontifical Hymn and the Turkish national anthem.

The occasion?

A big white bird, a Pan-American 707 called Saint Paul, was just touching down — carrying the world's most influential religious personality — Pope Paul VI — leader of over six hundred million Catholics!


Why Historic Meeting?

Why had the Roman Pontiff come to visit Turkey — a country of about 32 million, with a 98 percent non-Christian, Muslim population?

To see the world's next most important religious figure — Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Athenagoras I. There is a reason for this visit with the Patriarch of the Eastern Churches — the first papal visit to Turkey since 711 A.D. Few have grasped the real significance — the far-reaching outcome of this history-making occasion!

Ambassador College Photo

Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I
together at the church, St. Esprit in Istanbul, Turkey.
Occasion was the historic meeting of these two religious leaders during July, 1967.

The greetings at Istanbul's airport began to reveal the purpose.

After landing, the Pope's plane taxied up to a prearranged point not far from the waiting assemblage of dignitaries, the honor guard, the international assortment of pressmen and photographers from many countries, plus about 2,000 resident Turks.

Then, the door of the Pope's plane opened, and out stepped the Roman Pontiff — resplendent in Pontifical robes of white and scarlet. His scarlet robe was almost dazzling in the brilliant, late-morning sun.

The crowd awaiting the Pope's arrival greeted him warmly as he stepped out of the plane, raising both hands in his familiar benediction-like manner. There were no cries of "Viva Papa!" There was no mass hysteria as I had witnessed at Fatima, Portugal.

Among the waiting religious dignitaries were the Armenian Patriarch (representing the Armenian Church), the Grand Rabbi of Istanbul (representing the Jews), the Mufti of Istanbul (representing the Muslims), the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Athenagoras I. A number of religious dignitaries of some of the smaller religious communities were also present.

The Pope was first greeted by the President and the Prime Minister of Turkey. He then walked along a line of religious and secular dignitaries — greeting each as he shook hands.


Pope Meets Patriarch

But the climax came as he turned and, with outstretched arms (as though greeting a long-lost brother), approached the towering figure of Athenagoras I, Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches. Athenagoras is a very impressive man. His six-foot, six-inch stature made him easily the most commanding figure at the airport. Standing head and shoulders above the others, this elderly Patriarch (he was born in 1886) really looked like a Patriarch — with long, white beard and flowing, jet-black robe. The Pope, who is much shorter, must have felt dwarfed beside this commanding figure! This "kiss-of-peace" ceremony gave the impression that the 1,000-year old schism between Popes and Patriarchs had ended — or was at least about to end.

President Sunay of Turkey then welcomed the Pope in Turkish. The Pope's reply, in French, expressed compassion for the victims of the previous Saturday's earthquake centered at Adapazari.

Scores had died, as the terrifying shock waves of this awful earthquake struck. Hundreds of buildings were totally demolished, and countless thousands were damaged beyond repair.


Turkey and Vatican Reconciled?

The secular leaders of Turkey welcomed the Pope, but they were not effusive. The Turks (who are 98 percent Muslim) have not forgotten their history. They well know that the Pope's predecessors launched "holy crusades" against their forefathers, the Ottoman Turks. The Fourth Crusade, sent out by Pope Innocent III, actually sacked Constantinople — today called Istanbul — in 1204 A.D.

On the morning of Pope Paul's arrival, the Pope and President Sunay spoke of the reconciliation between the Papacy and Turkey. This reconciliation was symbolized by the Vatican's having returned to the Turks, in 1965, a standard captured by the combined Christian forces during the battle of Lepanto in 1571.

President Sunay mentioned the "excellent relations already existing between Turkey and the Vatican." The Pope, replying, spoke of the "noble Turkish nation."

But why the Pope's history-making trip — at this time?

There are a number of reasons.

1 — The Pope wanted to strengthen relations with the Turkish nation.

2 — He hoped to strengthen the hand of Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, in Turkey. Since Dr. Makarios' Greek-dominated government has been established in Cyprus, the Turkish governmental leaders had turned somewhat against the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Christian population of Istanbul has decreased from 80,000 to 30,000 in the last few years, due, at least partly, to the Greek-Turkish strife in Cyprus. It is being rumored that the Turkish Government would like to close down for good the Orthodox establishment in Turkey. They feel it is alien to their national interests — that it is totally irrelevant to the modern Turkey established by the progressive Kemal Ataturk.

Because of this Turkish attitude, the Pope hoped his visit would help to strengthen the precarious position of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. He hoped to strengthen Christianity against further Muslim pressure.

3 — Some speculated that a major purpose of the Pope's visit to Turkey was to discuss the matter of the protection of the holy places at Jerusalem. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches control most of the shrines and other holy places in Jerusalem.

So it is believed that the Pope wanted to discuss this matter with Athenagoras and with other religious dignitaries — as well as with the Turkish civil authorities. Remember, Jerusalem is the birthplace of three religious faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Mohammedanism.

Jerusalem will become increasingly important to Catholics in the near future. The Papacy will, as previously reported in The PLAIN TRUTH, be moved from Rome to Jerusalem — in the very near future! You will not have long to wait to see this prophecy fulfilled before your very eyes. Bible prophecy is very explicit on this point.

Furthermore, according to a recent report in a leading German newspaper, the Third Fatima Message is reported (by inside, informed Vatican sources) to reveal that there will be a terrible World War III, during which (according to this Fatima Vision) both Rome and the Vatican will be destroyed!

Could this possibly explain why the Vatican will be moved to Jerusalem?


Main Reason for Visit

4 — The main reason, however, for the Pope going to Turkey was to meet Athenagoras I, often referred to as the Ecumenical Patriarch.

But why did Pope Paul VI want to meet Athenagoras? Undoubtedly to strengthen the ecumenical movement. In other words, to help unite all Christians under the banner of the "Prince of Rome"!

The Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Athenagoras, is known to deplore the schism between the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church. He regards the division of Christianity as a terrible blotch — a great scandal!

On arrival in Istanbul, Pope Paul went to the Catholic cathedral to pray for "the unity of all who believe in Christ." He asked the many priests, nuns and others present to help him in his quest for unity: "one of the decisive motives for my journey."

But why the split in the first place? What holds the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches apart?