11/20/2006, 00.00
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Turkey's religious affairs chief not to discuss Regensburg with pope

"Unless the pope brings up the matter himself," said Bardakoglu. The government representative did not exclude that protests may occur but said he was sure the Turkish people would respect their guest.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – The head of Turkey's religious affairs department, Ali Bardakoglu has said he has no intention to bringing up the criticisms of Benedict XVI "unless the Pope puts it on the agenda", but did not exclude possible protests during the papal visit to Turkey from 28 November to 1 December. However he also stressed that the Turkish people would welcome the pope with solemnity without creating big incidents.  Bardakoglu's commented appeared in an interview with the German Der Spiegel that was cited by the Turkish press. The head of the religious affairs department – that had reacted very strongly to the 'lectio' of Benedict XVI in Regensburg in September – said the statements made on that occasion, to the effect that Islam imposed itself over logic, were a "apparent and prejudiced attack to Islam's main principles."

In an interview with Turkey's CNN, Bardakoglu said he was sure the people would be reasonable and sensible about the pope's visit and would not neglect their visitor. "Our doors are open to everybody. If somebody makes a false statement about Islam, we will make our attitude clear. This could be a Muslim, Jew or Christian," he said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish media reported new details about the visit. On 28 November, on his arrival at Ankara airport, to where his plane will be escorted by F-16 fighter jets, Benedict XVI will find two armoured cars waiting. However, for security reasons, it is not known which one he will travel in. The cars will take different routes to reach Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Ataturk, the first stop in the pope's journey.

In Ankara, in that part of the visit dedicated to the Turkish state, Benedict XVI should meet the Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdullah Gul.

In another detail about the pope's travel arrangements, it appears Turkish security may have some problems because of the wish of Benedict XVI to go to Fanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in a car of the same patriarchate.

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