Turkey's Prime Minister Likely to Meet with Pope Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to meet Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey on Tuesday. The Turkish leader had originally said he would not be available to meet with the pope during the Christian leader's four-day visit.
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Turkey's Prime Minister Likely to Meet with Pope

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Turkey's Prime Minister Likely to Meet with Pope

Turkey's Prime Minister Likely to Meet with Pope

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

JOHN YDSTIE, Host:

NPR's Ivan Watson reports from Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF STREET NOISE)

IVAN WATSON: In the courtyard of a cathedral off a busy Istanbul street, there's a statue of another pope named Benedict. The monument here honors Pope Benedict XV, who was described after his efforts to end World War I as a benefactor of all people, regardless of nation or creed. Today, most passersby barely give the statue a second glance. But some Turks here remember another, more recent pope quite fondly.

SUZAN MARBUCH: John Paul, very, very good. (Turkish spoken)

WATSON: A woman named Suzan Marbuch pats her head in respect when she mentions Pope John Paul II. She's not nearly as enthusiastic, though, about the current pontiff.

MARBUCH: (Turkish spoken)

WATSON: Yesterday in Istanbul, thousands of flag-waving Turks held a peaceful protest against the pope.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

WATSON: Mustafa Kaiya(ph), one of the organizers of the protest, says Turks are still angry about the pope's controversial speech two months ago.

MUSTAFA KAIYA: He said that Islam did not bring anything to the world, for the world. And he said Mohammed is a terrorist; Mohammed brought bloodshed. This is not acceptable.

WATSON: Ali Carkoglu, a political scientist at Sabanci University, says this could be an excellent opportunity for the pope to reach out to Muslims.

ALI CARKOGLU: If he wants, he can. The question is whether or not he will choose to.

WATSON: Political scientist Ali Carkoglu says some opposition groups are spreading conspiracy theories about the pope's upcoming meeting with the patriarch.

CARKOGLU: Nowadays, people are trying to portray him as, you know - he's visiting because he wants to transform the country into a Christian country.

WATSON: One poster distributed by secular ultra-nationalists shows the pope and the patriarch as two serpents coiled around a cross. Turkey's prime minister dismisses these groups as marginal. He has also asked Turks to extend their hospitality to the pope. That's a strategy taxi driver Mikhail Goak(ph) agrees with.

MIKHAIL GOAK: (Turkish spoken)

WATSON: Ivan Watson, NPR News, Istanbul.

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