The Pope will arrive in Turkey today, for a four-day visit unlike any other in modern times. There will be no Popemobile and no cheering crowds as Benedict XVI takes his first steps as Pontiff in the predominantly Muslim country. Instead he will travel in a bullet-proof limousine protected by a strict security cordon. Thousands of Turkish Muslim nationalists have already made it plain that the Pope is not welcome.
He sparked outrage across the Muslim world in September by quoting a 14th-Century Christian emperor who criticised the Prophet Mohammed. And his opposition to Ankara’s EU ambitions when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger has also counted against him.
The Pontiff is scheduled to meet with his Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians, along with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, one man unlikely to be granted an audience is the would-be assassin of Pope John Paul II. Mehmet Ali Agca has asked to be freed from prison for the day to meet Pope Benedict for a theological discussion.