Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, near Selcuk, Turkey, Wednesday Nov. 29, 2006 as Paul VI and John Paul II did before him.
Pope Benedict XVI is the third pope who became a "pilgrim" by visiting the House of Virgin Mary in Selcuk town of Aegean city of Izmir. Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were the other two popes who visited the House of Virgin Mary and became "pilgrims".
Turks praised Pope Benedict on Wednesday for moves to bridge the divide between Christians and Muslims as he began the part of his Turkey trip that is devoted to Christian issues.
Benedict, on a four-day visit to mend fences with Islam and Turkey, journeyed to a shrine in Ephesus near the southwest coast. He conducted an open-air Mass next to a house where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last years.
Security forces sealed off the area and only 250 people attended the event, making it one of the smallest crowds to attend a papal Mass.
According to tradition, the Mother of Jesus was brought here by John and spent the final years of her life. It is an ancient tradition. It was discovered, in 1891, in the wake of the visions of Anna Katharina Emmerick, a German mystic of the XIX century who was dear to John Paul II. Since then, it has become a place of pilgrimage for nearly one million people per year. Christians come but so do Muslims, considering that the Mother of Jesus is the most frequently mentioned woman in the Koran. To reach this place, the Pope flew from Ankara to Izmir, ancient Smyrna, and then traveled 50km by car to the hill. Along the road that passed cultivated fields and orchards. Benedict XVI celebrated mass and quoted St Paul when he said: “Christ ‘has made both groups into one'
In Selcuk, where he visited the House of the Virgin Mary, the pope also said kind words about the Turkish nation, opened his sermon with a sentence in Turkish (“My dear brothers, may the Lord be with you”) and waived a sizeable Turkish flag.
The Pope held Mass near a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the ancient western city of Ephesus. It is visited every year by tens of thousands of pilgrims, Christians come but so do Muslims, considering that the Mother of Jesus is the most frequently mentioned woman in the Koran.