11/15/2006, 00.00
TURKEY – VATICAN

Turkish nationalist paper accuses Bartholomew and Benedict XVI

The patriarch is accused of monopolising the event's TV coverage and the Istanbul press room even though the Patriarchate's involvement in this aspect of the visit's organisation is due to a lack of interest by Turkish authorities.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – In the latest in a series of actions taken by Turkey's religious-nationalist camp against the visit by the Pontiff to that country on November 28-December 1, a photo is travelling the net showing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Pope Benedict XVI with the caption saying: "The alliance between the two Christian leaders attacks Islam".

Tercüman, a nationalist daily, has gone a step further and published the photo on its front page. In large fonts, the title and subtitle respectively say: "Here is Sir Patriarch" and "He attacked Turkey's power by allowing the Hilton Hotel to be turned into a church for journalists coming for the Pope."

In the article, the paper denigrates the Ecumenical Patriarch accusing him of being "power-hungry", daring to "bypass for a second time" the Turkish government by imposing the invitation to the Pope and his visit.

Two years ago Bartholomew I personally invited the Pope to Turkey for the Feast Day of St Andrew (November 30). The Turkish government did not join its (necessary) invitation to that made by the Patriarch until this year.

The Turkish paper accuses the Patriarch of wanting to create a "state within a state", but most seriously charges Bartholomew I of giving exclusive worldwide TV rights to the Patriarchate itself (hence to Greek channels). To make matters worse, all telephone and internet lines will depend on the Patriarchate, not the Turkish state. This means that the Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM) will be excluded and have no say in the matter.

In fact, the article's author writes that even Turkish news media will have to get accreditation with the Patriarchate and use the services made available to them in a press room, set up for the occasion in Istanbul' Hotel Hilton by the Patriarchate itself.

For many Turks this represents a loss of authority, whilst for the Greek Orthodox patriarch it is a matter of freedom.

By contrast, sources in Rome say off the record that if there is anyone to blame it is Turkish TV which decided not to cover the papal visit and so left the organisation to others. The same is true for the press room which Turkish authorities chose not to set up. Hence in both Ankara and Ephesus, the first two stops in Benedict XVI's visit, there will be no press room. The one in Istanbul is being set up by the Patriarchate.

Following the controversy over the Pope's Regensburg speech and the false interpretations given to it, tensions had seemingly died down.

In fact, in Turkey many newspapers explained to the population that the Pope's security will be provided by Turkish police and law enforcement agencies.

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