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Bartholomew I Urges Turks to Respect Papal Visit

ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople urged Turks to respect the Pope's visit to their country, given the statements and threats of radical groups to boycott the trip.

In an interview published in the Turkish newspaper Sabah, the Orthodox patriarch said that Benedict XVI's visit from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 will be a great opportunity for Turkey.

One of the Pope's objectives is to meet with Bartholomew I in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople. The meeting between the Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders is scheduled for Nov. 29.

Turkish authorities have said they expect protests against the Pope. On Sunday, more than a dozen nationalists unfurled anti-Pope banners during a Conservative Party rally in Istanbul.

Bartholomew I cautioned that if protests turn violent, it could cause problems for Turkey ahead of a critical European Union summit in mid-December on Ankara's progress for membership.

Bartholomew I, who is a Turk, said of the country's response to the papal visit: "If it is used incorrectly, it will harm Turkey's image."