Pope Urges Peace During Visit to Turkey

The pope told Turkish diplomats in the capital Ankara at the start of his four-day visit that “recent developments in terrorism and in certain regional conflicts” underscore the need for international peacekeeping efforts in violence-wracked areas such as Lebanon, reported the Associated Press.

He called for dialogue and “brotherhood” between faiths and urged religious leaders to reject attempts to wield political power.

Benedict also told Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan that he backed Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, according to Reuters. Before becoming pope in 2005, Benedict had opposed Turkey’s entry.

Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the Vatican takes no political stand but supported Turkey’s entry into the EU “on the basis of common values and principles,” Reuters reported.

In addition, Benedict is expected to call for greater rights and protections for the Christian minority — there are only about 30,000 Roman Catholics in the nation of about 72 million Muslims.

The pope visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and wrote in a guest book that Turkey is “a meeting point of different religions and cultures and a bridge between Asia and Europe,” reported the AP.

Security for Benedict’s visit included 3,000 police and sharpshooters. His visit had spurred protests based on remarks he made in a speech in September that quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman.”

The remarks triggered a wave of anger in the Islamic world. Benedict later expressed regret for the violent Muslim backlash.