Pope Benedict XVI has landed in the Ankara airport and been greeted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite prolonged mutterings that the Catholic leader may just be left to take care of himself once he touched down. The Prime Minister did turn up, as it happened, and rumour has it that 3,000 police officers have been deployed to watch over Benedict during his stay in Ankara, Istanbul and Ephesus over the next few days.
Benedict has gotten talked himself into something of a hole when it comes to the Muslim world. Security is tight because everyone involved in the trip feels that violence might erupt as a result of the more than 20,000 protestors on the streets. September saw the Pope delivering a damning speech to a German university in which he quoted Manuel II Palaeologus, the Byzantine Emperor of the 14th century. The Pope stated,
“The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war. He said, I quote, ‘Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'” (Fraser, 2006)
Following the outcry over a cartoon image of Muhammad a year earlier, the Muslim world is seemingly very much on edge when it comes to any mention of their religion. Benedict’s presence in Turkey has been highly protested, but also greeted as the chance to bridge the communication gap between the Muslim and the Western worlds. Turkish journalist Yusuf Kanli, chief columnist of the Turkish Daily News, told CBC reporters that these protests were not in keeping with the thoughts of his nation (CBC News, 2006). Kanli proposes that, in fact, most Turkish citizens are completely indifferent to the Pope’s visit and won’t bother to denounce nor celebrate his presence in their country.
Regardless of this possible indifference by Muslims of the Catholic leader descending into their midst, Benedict’s visit to the country has been touted as the most dangerous trip in modern history.
CBC News (2006, November 28). Muslims, Christians part of same ‘family’: Pope. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/11/28/turkish-security.html
Fraser, S. (2006, September 15). Turkish lawmaker compares Pope to Hitler. Associated Press. Retrieved from http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060915/D8K5ADM80.html