11/28/2014 08:55 EST | Updated 01/28/2015 05:59 EST

Pope Francis in Turkey expected to denounce violence against minorities

Pope Francis arrived today in Turkey, where he was to meet with Muslim leaders and expected to denounce violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

The Pope gained the respect of many in the Muslim world when he opposed Western military action against the regime of Syria's Bashir al-Assad and prayed for an end to Palestinian suffering while in Israel last May.

The Pope's first scheduled stop on this three-day visit was the sumptuous — and controversial — palace of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, CBC's Megan Williams reported.

While Turkey wants to present itself as a place of religious tolerance, it also grapples with the persecution of Christian minorities in the country.

In recent years, a Catholic priest and bishop and three evangelical missionaries were murdered, Williams said. Turkey also bans the training of Orthodox priests.

At the core of the visit is the Pope's desire, shared with the Orthodox Christian leader Patriarch Bartholomew the First, to bring closer the two branches of Christianity that split a thousand years ago.

The two men will meet to sign a joint declaration that they'll work to heal what's known as the Great Schism.