Certainly one of the world's most exotic and interesting cities, Istanbul (named after the Emperor Constantine and known then as Constantinople) was once home to the Eastern Church, then the Ottoman Empire and is now a popular tourist mecca for people from all over the world. A city where East meets West in the geographical sense, it is also a place where diverse cultures combine.
Since the founding of modern-day Turkey by Kemal Attaturk in 1923 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the country has become a modern, secular state.
Note: due to the increasingly autocratic rule of President Erdogan, many freedoms of speech have been restricted and we expect this to accelerate following the coup attempt of July 2016. We recommend that visitors remain alert, but think the dangers to visitors are not as severe as the media would make it seem.
Istanbul is a city both modern and ancient, and steeped in history. Located on the Bosporous, it is one of the most strategic waterways in the world.
Insofar as sites of interest to Catholic travelers, there are several that are not necessarily Catholic but have historical ties to the Catholic Church. Perhaps the most notable is Saint Sophia, originally a church that later became a mosque and now is a museum.
Although the Muslim faith is predominant here, it coexists in harmony with many other faiths as well. For Roman Catholics there are several prominent churches here offering Mass in English, Turkish, Italian and other languages. And of course a visit here should certainly include a few non-religious sites, especially the Grand Bazaar or the spice market. And a boat ride on the Bosporus is something you will always remember. Some Mediterranean cruises make Istanbul a port of call and there are a few Catholic tour groups that go there as well.
The largest parish is the minor Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua. This church is run by Italian priests and has masses in English, Turkish, Polish and Italian.
Address: İstiklal Caddesi No:171, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
GPS coordinates: 41° 1' 55.9740'' N, 28° 58' 36.7932'' E
Tel: +90 212 244 0935
There are other Catholic churches in the city as well: one of the more famous being the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, which has Masses primarily in French (also an English Mass on Sundays). Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both paid visits to the Cathedral. The Cathedral is just across the street from the Istanbul Hilton.
Address: Cumhuriyet Cad. No: 127 A, 34373 Harbiye − Istanbul
Tel: +90 (0)212 − 248 09 10 Fax: +90 (0)212 − 232 40 44
Photo top right courtesy Basilica of Saint Anthony, Istanbul