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Vatican confirms papal trip to Turkey

Pope Francis prays in front of the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, May 26, 2014. Pope Francis has prayed at Jerusalem's Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, bowing his head as he touched the wall in the same gesture used a day earlier to pray at the Israeli barrier surrounding the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. .
Pope Francis prays in front of the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, May 26, 2014. Pope Francis has prayed at Jerusalem's Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray, bowing his head as he touched the wall in the same gesture used a day earlier to pray at the Israeli barrier surrounding the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. . AP Photo/Oded Balilty

ATICAN CITY – The Vatican says Pope Francis will travel to Turkey at the end of November.

The trip, confirmed Friday by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, had been rumoured for weeks but only became official after the Vatican received an invitation from the Turkish president Friday morning.

Francis is expected to mark an important Orthodox feast day Nov. 30 with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians. But perhaps more importantly, the visit will give Francis the chance to visit a Muslim nation at a time when Christians are being targeted by Islamic militants in Iraq.

Lombardi said the dates and itinerary haven’t been finalized.

Francis had said he had wanted to visit Kurdistan to show solidarity with Christians forced to flee by the Islamic State group.

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