On Visit to Turkey, Pope to Meet Islamic Cleric who Denounced Him

November 12, 2006

Author: Frances D'Emilio

Source: The Detroit News

Wire Service: AP


The pope's upcoming trip to Turkey will include a meeting with a Muslim cleric who was one of the first to denounce Benedict XVI for his remarks on Islam and violence, the Vatican said Saturday.

The Nov. 28-Dec. 1 pilgrimage was born out of Benedict's desire to meet with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, as the pope pursues closer relations with other Christian denominations.

But Benedict's first papal visit to a Muslim country quickly turned into a test of Catholic-Muslim relations after his Sept. 12 speech provoked an outcry in the Muslim world. The pope quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor describing Islam as a religion spread by the sword.

One of the first to denounce Benedict's speech was Turkey's president for religious affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, a top Islamic cleric who said criticism of Islam threatened world peace. Benedict and Bardakoglu will meet within hours of the pope's arrival in Ankara, the Turkish capital. The pope will also deliver a speech during his encounter with the cleric, the Vatican said.