ROME - Pope Francis will travel to Turkey next month, the Vatican said on Tuesday, his first visit to the predominantly Muslim country which has become a refuge for Christians fleeing persecution by Islamic State militants in neighbouring Syria and in Iraq.
During his three-day visit, the pope will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He will also meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the Orthodox churches that make up the second-largest Christian church family after Roman Catholicism.
"The Holy Father will visit Ankara and Istanbul from Nov. 28 to 30," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
Islamic State militants have declared a "caliphate" in the territories they control and have killed or driven out large numbers of Christians, Shi'ite Muslims and others who do not subscribe to their hardline version of Sunni Islam.
Many have fled to Turkey, along with tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds who left as Islamic State forces seized dozens of their villages close to the border, where fighting continues.