RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
JOHN YDSTIE, Host:
NPR's Ivan Watson reports from Istanbul.
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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.
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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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