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  • » 12/01/2006, 00.00

    IRAN – TURKEY – VATICAN

    Negative reactions in Iranian press over Pope's Turkey visit

    Darius Mirzai

    Benedict XVI is accused of "Islamophobia" and collusion with Bush and Blair. The Pope's ecumenism is resented as a threat to Islam, but especially as a judgement on the bad relations between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq and Iran.

    Tehran (AsiaNews) – Discretion but also negative tones characterise coverage of the Pope's trip to Turkey in the Iranian press. By contrast, victimhood and triumphalism ("The Pope apologises") had been front and centre in almost every Iranian paper following Benedict's speech in Regensburg and his quote of Manuel II Palaiologos. "Spontaneous" street demonstrations were organised with some Muslim leaders criticising the Pope's "Islamophobia". Only former President Kathami and his successor Ahmadinejad had chosen not to criticise the speech.

    This time the visit by the Supreme Pontiff in neighbouring Turkey received a limited coverage. Editorial pages, closely monitored by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, rehashed what the Pope said in Regensburg but failed to report his clarifications ("the so-called apologies). The general impression conveyed by the press is that Benedict XVI is indeed "Islamophobic", or even worse.

    Even though the Pope no longer calls himself by the traditional title of "Western patriarch", the Iranian press treat him as a clone (or ally) of Bush and Blair as if every US-British political move was in and of itself "Christian" or the Catholic Church only Western.

    For reformist newspaper Iran News, "Islamic-Christian relations are at their lowest point since the Crusades" and the Pope's visit seen as "controversial and sensational", scorned by Turkish society.

    In its front page, the Conservative Tehran Times wrote: "Dialogue with Islam or Christian alliance against Muslims?"

    Both papers stressed the fact that Benedict XVI's visit was designed to strengthen Christian unity and gain greater room for Christians vis-à-vis the Turkish state.

    The perplexity expressed in Iran's press towards Christian ecumenism and the whispered charges of anti-Islamic coalition can be interpreted in many ways. But perhaps it is some bitter jealousy. Unlike Christians, there is no ecumenism between Sunnis and Shiites, no attempt to bring about some kind of union; instead, there is a real and open war of religion amongst Muslims as Iraq shows.

    In Tehran the situation is not much better. Christians have some churches, Jews have a few synagogues but Sunnis have no mosque that they can call their own.

    For Sunnis who do not want to attend an underground mosque, the only possibility to worship is to attend Friday prayers in a foreign embassy (Indonesia, Saudi Arabia).

    This might explain why Iran's Shiite leaders were not particularly pleased to see the expressions of brotherhood between Catholics and Orthodox or hear Benedict XVI's speech about the rights of religious minorities.

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    See also

    27/11/2006 TURKEY - VATICAN
    Turkey's Catholics, Orthodox pray for pope's arrival

    Christians must travel for 18 hours to participate in mass with Benedict XVI in Ephesus. The pontiff's words in yesterday's Angelus about the "dear Turkish people" have been described by the media as a "warm and friendly message".



    29/11/2006 VATICAN – TURKEY
    Benedict XVI meets Bartholomew I, together for full unity
    The visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the main reason for the Pope's trip to Turkey on the Feast Day of Saint Andrew. A joint statement is expected tomorrow. Istanbul is under tight security.

    26/10/2006 TURKEY – VATICAN
    Turkish edition of "I believe", synthesis of Catholic Catechism for papal visit

    This is an initiative by Aid to the Church in Need, which sees the papal trip and talks about Turkey's EU entry as opportunities to call for full respect for religious freedom in that country. Mgr Padovese said the Pope is going to talk to Muslims, and especially to the Orthodox.



    28/11/2006 VATICAN – TURKEY
    Pope: trip to Turkey is "pastoral, not political"

    In an informal discourse with journalists, Benedict XVI underlined the faith and hope with which he is facing his sensitive trip to Turkey. He said he was for Ankara's entry into Europe. The pope also touched upon the upcoming meeting between the sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople. He was welcomed by Premier Erdogan on arrival. By our special correspondent.



    02/11/2006 TURKEY - VATICAN
    Man fires shots outside Italian consulate to protest papal visit

    "If I could, I would kill the pope with my own hands," he said. But the Vatican has called for calm: "There are no worries about the visit of Benedict XVI."





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