Pope Benedict XVI’s visit has Turkey on its toes
Pope's visit to Turkey a major security concern in the days of Islam-West tensions.
BY A CORRESPONDENT
November 26, 2006
Security fears are high on agenda as Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Turkey on Monday for a visit of the naton.
The visit dogged by controversy and security worries considering the fact that Pope Benedict had made himself unpopular with his 2004 comment that Turkey had always been in permanent contrast to Europe, and that for Turkey to join the EU would be a mistake.
The only good news for the Pope when he arrives in Turkey is that Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who tried to assassinate his predecessor, is still behind bars. He was jailed after trying to shoot Pope John Paul II outside St Peter's Basilica in 1981.
Interestingly, he had requested his release this month saying that he wanted to meet Pope Benedict. However, the Turkish authorities have decided that Agca will remain in prison till 2010.
Though the visit comes following an invitation extended by Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople in a bid to encourage and cheer Turkey's embattled 150,000 Christians, in a country that is predominantly Muslim. The controversy starts there.
The Turkish authorities feel that it is their prerogative to invite a head of state. Pope Benedict, who was termed by Turkish newspapers as anti-Turkish on his election to the high office, is not a welcome man in this part of the world at least for some.
Pope Benedict had quoted trouble yet again by describing a 14th-century Byzantine emperor describing Islam as evil and inhuman because of the Prophet's command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. He was under fire then and had to apologise for the statement following mass protests.
Now with the visit all set as scheduled, the Pope will have to overcome protesting gestured. The Turkish government is not in a position to call it off, as it is driven by its EU ambitions, and the Vatican couldn't call it off, or it would be seen to be capitulating to those who attacked him.
Now its left to the Turkish government to protect him, and the Pope to not make any controversial statement.