First trip to Istanbul for Archbishop of Canterbury

THE Archbishop of Canterbury hopes to visit two Turkish synagogues where 24 people were killed in suicide bombings last week, Lambeth Palace announced yesterday.

Dr Rowan Williams - who arrived in Turkey yesterday and returns to Britain tomorrow - would survey the scene of the bomb blasts during his first trip to Istanbul since becoming Archbishop, his spokesman said.

Two Arabic-language newspapers have claimed Osama bin Laden's terror group al Qaida was responsible for the bombings.

Dr Williams, the former Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Monmouth, who has a particular interest in the Orthodox Churches, paid a formal visit to the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch.

Visiting the Phanar, the Cathedral Church of St George, Dr Williams said his trip was a sign of the unity in Christ's Church.

"It gives me great joy to follow my recent predecessors in making this pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

Dr Williams also said he was hopeful the divide within the Anglican church over gay bishops could be healed and resolved before long.

"Despite our present difficulty, I am confident that the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Churches will continue to grow together in love and fellowship," he said.

"There is much that unites us and it has been a source of great happiness that in our dialogue we have been able to agree statements about our common doctrine.

"This growth in understanding has been built on a foundation of personal respect and affection, and I trust that this will be strengthened as our bishops, clergy and lay people learn to know each other, to understand each other's traditions.

"It is therefore with faith and hope, as well as love, that I greet Your All Holiness and ask for your prayers for the ministry that we share."

During his visit, the Archbishop will greet the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and the Governor of the City.

The Archbishop will preach at Evening Prayer at Christ Church, the Diocese of Europe chaplaincy in Istanbul.