Today was a day I will never forget here in Istanbul. Our day began by visiting several churches and mosques. One particular church called the Chora Church of the Holy Saviour in Turkey is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church. The church is situated in Istanbul, in the Edirnekapı neighborhood, which lies in the western part of the municipality (belediye) of Fatih. In the 16th century, the church was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman rulers, and it became a secularised museum in 1948. The interior of the building is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes. The mosaics in this church were exquisite! Many of these mosaics are depicting the life of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Afterwards our next stop was truly a surprise.

At 11 a.m. Here in Turkey we had a special appointment on our tour. The appointment we had was to meet the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul at the St. George Church. His All Holiness, BARTHOLOMEW, is the 270th successor of the 2,000 year-old local Christian Church founded by St. Andrew the Apostle. As a citizen of Turkey, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s personal experience provides him a unique perspective on the continuing dialogue among the Christian, Islamic and Jewish worlds. What an amazing meeting we had with him. We were each greeted personally by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. What an experience that was to meet with a person of high stature in the Greek Orthodox Church. He spent almost half an hour speaking with all of us. Just the day before he had met with the Prime Minister of Australia. Aydin our tour guide had worked six months in planning this very special meeting.

Our next venture was to visit a mosque during their Friday prayer time.  Outside visitors are not allowed to enter the mosque during their prayer time.  Again Aydin our tour guide had made very, very special arrangements for us to view the Muslim religion in practice on this Friday of prayer.  We were escorted very rapidly up very narrow stairs and led up to a second level area where no one could see us.  We had to be very discreet and respectful and not visible during their prayer time.  We were asked to sit on the floor so that we could watch and listen quietly.  It was amazing to personally see how the Muslim religion is practiced.

This day was a day to remember!  The two experiences we had were extremely “special” and our group was very fortunate to have been able to experience the two religions in one day.  Our last days here in Istanbul will be very busy.  Fortunately the weather now has been beautiful!  Father Tom has already planned several things for us to do.  I will keep you posted.  I miss all of you!




It was a beautiful sunny day in Istanbul!  Our day began with a visit to the Hagia Irene.  The Hagia Irene is one of few Byzantine-era cathedrals, which was never converted to a mosque (though not used for religious purposes either during the Ottoman period). This church is in the first court of Topkapi Palace. It is one of the earliest Christian churches in Istanbul. The building stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the Hagia Irene Church in the 4th century.   Also located here is an Archaeological Museum.  The museum has a large collection of Turkish, Hellinistic Civilization, and Roman artifacts.

After visiting the museum we then went to a Catholic Church located in Istanbul.  The name of the church is Saint Anthony.  We celebrated mass there this afternoon.  The only priest there is a Franciscan Friar who is from Italy.  He has been at this church for almost two years.  It was very nice of him to allow Father Tom and Father John to celebrate mass for us on this day.

The church has beautiful stained glass windows.  Hanging above the altar there is a beautiful wood crucifix.  Also there are two mosaics depicting the Baptism of the Lord and the Last Supper.  On one side of the altar there is also a bronze bust of St. Maximillian Kolbe.  Near the front entrance of the church is a bronze statue of Pope John XXIII. Pope John XXIII preached in this church for 10 years, when he was the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey before being elected as pope. He is known in Turkey with the nickname “The Turkish Pope” because of his fluent Turkish and his often expressed love for Turkey and the city of Istanbul.  This church serves a community of about 200 Catholics.  On Sunday’s Father recites mass in English, Italian, Polish, and Turkish languages.  I really loved that we had celebrated mass in this beautiful church today.  It was a very special mass for all of the pilgrims in our group.

“Fresco” painting of Jesus in Aya Sofya Church

Information: Aya Sofya Church

Pictures of Aya Sofya Church


This morning we left Bursa and headed out to Iznik, is a town in northwestern Turkey on the eastern shore of the Iznik Lake, and is surrounded by ancient walls with four gates.  The town used to be called Nicaea in ancient times.  Nicaea is the site of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.  This gathering of bishops gave rise to the Nicene Creed — or declaration of faith — which is used today by Roman Catholics.  In the center of town, the 4th century church of Aya Sofya (not the same one as its much more famous namesake in Istanbul), now converted to a mosque, still stands.

After visiting this church we had lunch overlooking the beautiful lake.  Afterwards Father Tom and all of us walked closer to the lake and together recited the Nicene Creed.  That was a very memorable moment for all of us.  To recite the profession of faith in the location where it had all begun more than 1,600 years ago!

Soon we were on the road to another city called Sapanca.  This town located about an hour from Istanbul is a very beautiful city.  We arrived in Sapanca and were invited by our tour guide Aydin to meet his wife and youngest daughter.  This is where Aydin’s has a summer home overlooking the Sapanca River.  What a beautiful day we had visiting with his wife daughter.   His wife had made homemade chocolate tea cake and we were served traditional Turkish tea.  It was so beautiful sitting in their front yard and looking out to the Sapanca Lake.

We then ventured out to the Asian side of Istanbul to where our hotel is located.  On the way we had the pleasure of meeting Aydin’s oldest daughter and his Nanny who has been with his family for more than 80 years.  It was such a beautiful site to see her running towards Aydin to greet him.  Tears of joy and happiness were felt among all of us pilgrims.  It really made today’s final arrival into Istanbul very special for everyone and especially Aydin.  He has made our pilgrimage so very meaningful and has truly taught us so much about the country of Turkey, the people, and their religion.

After saying our goodbyes our next stop was our hotel in the heart of Istanbul.  After traveling on the highway we were so lucky to be traveling towards the European side of turkey.  The reason being that persons leaving work from the European side and heading home over the bridge, which crosses over the Bosphorous River, towards the Asian side would be sitting in traffic like I have never seen before in California.  The traffic jam was almost 8 miles back!  So for anyone single day of the week!

Our pilgrimage is now surely coming to an end.  After traveling almost 3,182 ½ miles in 17 days, I definitely will be taking back home with me so much from this beautiful country.   Sadly, in 3 days several pilgrims will be departing back to California.  I will definitely miss them very much.  The rest of the pilgrims will remain here in Istanbul including Mrs. Ladou and myself.  I am looking forward to learning much more about this wonderful and busy city.

Day 16: Ankara to Bursa

Today we began our morning at 9:00 a.m. On a beautiful sunny day in Ankara.  Today we visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilzation.  In this museum one can see exhibits of gold, silver, glass, marble and bronze works dating back as far as the second half of the first millenium BC.  There are artifacts from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Early Bronze, and Hittite Periods.  It was truly amazing to see so many artifacts still intact as they were thousands of years ago.  The next place we visited was the Tomb of King Midas.  He is a famous king remembered in Greek Mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold.  After driving for seven hours we have finally arrived in Bursa.

More Cappadocia pictures!


That’s the shadow of our balloon!



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This evening we took turns downloading pictures and posting information.  I will post more pictures tomorrow.  We have taken close to 900+ pictures!  We will share more pictures tomorrow!