ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome  

Bishop Upbeat About Pope's Visit to Turkey
Apostolic Vicar Aims to Defuse Tensions

ROME, NOV. 6, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Ahead of Benedict XVI's upcoming trip to Turkey, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia says "no importance must be given to excessive alarmism caused by those who wish to create tensions."

Bishop Luigi Padovese was hoping to moderate the climate of tension fueled by recent events.

On Nov. 1, for instance, 26-year-old Ibrahim Ak fired four shots in the air, in front of the Italian Consulate in Istanbul, to protest the Pope's upcoming visit to Turkey this month.

Currently, one of the best-selling novels in the country is "Attack on the Pope: Who Will Kill Benedict XVI in Istanbul?" by Yucel Kaya.

Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Turkey from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

Referring to the gunshots fired near the Italian Consulate, Bishop Padovese told ZENIT: "I think that excessive importance must not be given to attention-catching acts, such as that one. Excessive focusing on such incidents by some of the Turkish press serves to fuel the tension and to produce -- I don't exclude it -- other gestures of this kind."

The prelate said that such events are useful "to fill newspaper pages with marginal incidents like these."


Bishop Padovese, 59, said he is disappointed that the Turkish minister of religious affairs does not plan to meet with the Pope.

"I regret that in addition to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Minister Mehmet Aydin will also be absent, who will be taking a trip abroad," the bishop said.

"I make no suppositions about this absence, which in any case seems somewhat strange, given that the Pope is not coming to Turkey only as a head of state, but also as a religious leader," he added.

The apostolic vicar commented: "Taking into account that, it seems, part of public opinion does not appreciate the Holy Father's visit, gestures like these -- regardless of the real justification, which must not be excluded -- can be interpreted as a way of keeping distances."