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Time: Turkey visit off due to Pope's Islam speech?

Published: Friday September 15, 2006

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Pope Benedict XVI's planned visit to Turkey in November may be cancelled because of a "provocative" Islam speech, reports TIME Magazine.

"Pope Benedict XVI's controversial comments about Islam have already ignited a firestorm of criticism in the Muslim world, but it may end up costing the Vatican more than just its reputation," write Jeff Israely and Andrew Purvis for TIME.

"A top Catholic Church official inside Turkey says the polemics following Benedict XVI's comments about Islam may cause the cancellation of his November visit to the majority Muslim country, which is nevertheless governed on secular principles," the article continues.

Excerpts from article:


"At this point, I don't know if the trip will happen," Mons. Luigi Padovese, the Vicar Apostolic in Anatolia, the Church's representative for what amounts to the eastern half of Turkey, told TIME. "There are leading politicians, members of the ruling parties, a top minister and others who have expressed a negative opinion on the visit." Padovese blamed the outcry on voices in the Turkish press whom he described as "nationalist, Islamist and anti-Christian," and said the Pope's intention was not to offend anyone. "I don't know if anyone even read the Pope's discourse," Padovese said. "These elements tossed out the bait, and others took it."

The sharpest rebuke inside Turkey came from Salih Kapusuz, the deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development, or AK Party, who said that Benedict would go down in history "in the same category as leaders such as (Benito) Mussolini and (Adolf) Hitler." He told the state-owned Anatolia news agency that Benedict's comments were a deliberate attempt to "revive the mentality of the Crusades: He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages." He added that Benedict "is a poor thing that has not benefitted from the spirit of reform in the Christian world..."

Asked if the Turkish authorities had made any specific requests of the Holy See, Padovese said that the only demands have come from the press. "There is a request that the Pope apologizes for what he said," says Padovese. "But I read into this request a kind of triumphalism to see the Church and Christians and the Pope say out loud that they were wrong." Padovese spoke by phone from the parish in the Black Sea coastal city of Trebizond, where in February Father Andrea Santoro was killed by a young Muslim man in an apparently religiously-motivated attack. Two other Catholic clergy members have been the victims of attacks in Turkey over the past several months.