Vatican on Monday officially confirmed that
Pope Benedict will visit Turkey at the end of November, a trip that had been put into doubt by Muslim anger over controversial comments he made about Islam.
The confirmation of the Nov 28-Dec 1 trip to the predominantly Muslim nation came in an advisory to journalists on accreditation and a separate announcement that he was making the trip at the invitation of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
The German Pope will spend four days in Turkey, making stops at the capital, Ankara, as well as Izmir, Ephesus, where legend says Christ’s mother went after his death, and Istanbul.
The main purpose of the visit is to meet in Istanbul — the former Constantinople — with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
But the issue of Christian unity — although still the main topic of the trip — has been largely overshadowed by the worldwide controversy that followed his September 12 lecture at Regensburg University in his native Germany.
In the lecture, he quoted 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus who spoke of the Prophet Mohammad’s “command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The leader of more than one billion Catholics has several times expressed regret for the reaction to the speech but he has stopped short of the unequivocal apology wanted by some Muslims.
Since the speech, the Pope or Vatican officials have said at least a dozen times that it has been misunderstood.
Some of the strongest criticism of the speech came from Turkey, where Turkish nationalists and Islamic activists have pushed for the trip to be canceled.
Meanwhile, Islamic scholars attempt to persuade the Pope that, among other things, “the argument that Muslims are commanded to spread their faith ‘by the sword,’ or that Islam was largely spread ‘by the sword,’ does not hold up to scrutiny.”
Yeah. That “convert or die” stuff is just a figment of our wild imagination.