Via Media

The visit begins on Tuesday, so coverage will slowly be ramping up. First, from AsiaNews:

It is no secret that the Turkish people have little liking for Benedict XVI. The Turks, sorry to say, do not like Pope Ratzinger. And this is not only because of his speech delivered in Regensburg in mid-September. Alongside the “religious problem”, there is persistent antipathy – concealed less and less – towards the man who, as cardinal, had pronounced a “harsh” opinion about Turkey and its bid to join Europe.

In this Muslim majority and nationalist country, the pope’s visit is annoying for both the people and the government, not least because it is clearly linked to an invitation from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and has a religious character.

So in the papers, there is a constant trickle of news aimed at undermining and defaming these two figures of the Christian world (who are depicted as a coalition against Islam and Turkey), provoking controversies and irritation even on the most minor issues. So on one day, anger may be focused on the affront caused by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch who wanted to “set up a church” in the Hilton Hotel. This is just because there will be a press room in the hotel, as requested by Bartholomew I, with the possibility of watching on large screens the religious ceremonies due to take place in Istanbul on 30 November. The following day, anger could shift against the Pope, who “refused” the invitation to the traditional State dinner offered by the Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on 28 November. And attention is drawn to inconveniences that residents of Istanbul will have to put up with in those areas where the pope will go: access to their homes will be impeded and they will need a special police permit to park. Once again, it is quirks bordering on the ridiculous and gossip about the pope’s vestments that are taking up space in newspapers, like the quest to understand why he has 33 buttons on his robe, why he wears red shoes and a gold ring.

But not much space is devoted to protest rallies against the visit of Ratzinger.

The more fanatical newspapers, like Vakit, last Sunday ran front-page appeals to cancel the invitation to a pope “who denigrated our prophet Muhammad and our Turkish nationality”, and today they again highlighted the pope’s refusal to attend the ceremonial dinner, ridiculing Benedict XVI who “does not allow himself earthly pleasures.” But the newspapers failed to emphasize a move by around 100 militants of the Great Union (an extreme right party, close to the Grey Wolves), who dared to pray in the Santa Sofia museum to protest against the Pope

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