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Tumult in Turkey over new pope

From Brian Todd

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd at the Vatican after his election Tuesday.
Wolf Blitzer Reports
Joseph Ratzinger

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In Istanbul and Ankara, on newsstands and on the Internet, headlines scream displeasure over Joseph Ratzinger's ascendance to the papacy.

"He was Turkey's last choice," reads one.

Pope Benedict XVI has seemingly lost hearts and minds in predominantly Muslim Turkey, over remarks he made last August.

In an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was asked about Turkey's effort to join the European Union.

Literally translated from French, Ratzinger answered, "Turkey always represented another continent during history, always in contrast with Europe."

He later said, "... To identify both continents as one would be a mistake. It would be about a loss of richness and cultural disparity in order to justify an economic motive."

CNN called the Vatican press office for clarification and was told none would be offered.

The editor of Ignatius Press, which has translated Ratzinger's writings, points out that the new pope, like John Paul II, has reached out to other faiths, including Islam.

But on the question of Turkey, the Rev. Joseph Fessio says, "Turkey does not have a bridge through tradition with Christian Europe, and therefore it should be part of the Arabian bloc ... What has made Europe great has been Jesus Christ."

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan downplays any controversy, and says it's possible that Pope Benedict XVI's statements about Turkey will be very different.

But in this era of fragile relations between Islam and the West, how will Muslim advocates receive a pope who spoke in controversial terms about a cultural divide?

"If he has some concerns about Turkey entering the EU, perhaps Muslim leaders from around the world can sit with him and try and allay some of his concerns. But I think the attitude, the basic attitude of respect and tolerance is one that we hope to see from the new pope," says Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

This pope's predecessor in name, Benedict XV, did so much to help Turkey during World War I that he has a statue in Istanbul saluting him as "the benefactor of all people, irrespective of nationality or religion."

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