Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Thursday, 30 November 2006

Pope visits Turkey: Online debate part III

Pope Benedict XVI (left) with Ali Bardakoglu, secular Turkey's top religious official

Pope Benedict XVI has concluded his visit to Turkey by celebrating mass at an Istanbul cathedral and making a final appeal for freedom of religion.

His four-day trip, and in particular his tour of Turkey's Blue Mosque in Istanbul, was seen as an attempt to mend relations with the Muslim community.

Here, two Turkish readers of the website - one Muslim and one Christian - complete their email discussion on the landmark visit.

Follow the links below to read parts one and two.

TUNAY EGIN, 34, ANTALYA, LAWYER - SECULAR MUSLIM

Tunay Egin

Dear Bahadir,

I can see that we agree on some things.

And before his arrival I did think the Pope could help bridge the Christian and Muslim worlds - if he showed respect and offered messages of kindness.

Luckily, he has been wise enough to offer warm words. He also said that he likes the Turkish people - so that is a good thing!

As for his comments welcoming Turkey's potential EU membership, they sound good but I'm not sure he has really changed his mind. Anyway, this is a matter that will not be decided for many years.

Religious leaders on both sides should start saying things that are not offensive but respectful
Bahadir, you are right to say that disagreement should not be expressed through violence.

But how can we compare the Pope - a very well educated man - with Muslim people who live in poor countries?

There are many poor and uneducated Muslim people who are already very sensitive about their religious and cultural values and can be easily provoked.

And, I've always said that Islam has suffered from provocative politicians and religious bigots.

The founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, brought this country secularism in order to stop that. And we can see the contrast between Turkey and other Muslim nations.

Pope Benedict XVI
The original aim of the trip was to meet the Orthodox patriarch

You question my assertion that the Muslim world is the new target for the West.

This is simply my opinion. Powerful states always need enemies to keep their people in order, even in democratic countries.

You also suggest Muslims should offer greater apologies for 9/11. I say no wise person can defend those attacks.

For a Muslim, any attack on defenceless people is forbidden. The people who carried out that atrocity are dangerous enemies of Islam.

There is only one way to stop the 'clash of civilisations'.

Religious and political leaders on both sides should start saying things that are not offensive but respectful.

So it is good that the Pope's visit started and finished well.

Even Istanbul - a city of millions, with residents from all over the nation - was relatively peaceful. This means there was no great anger in Turkey at the Pope's visit.

BAHADIR, 30, ANKARA, WORKS FOR NGO - CHRISTIAN

Turkish policemen patrol the area outside the Vatican embassy in Ankara 28/11/06
Security has been higher for the Pope than it was for George W Bush

Dear Tunay,

It is good to see that we agree on the basics of the primary importance of peace and understanding.

Before his arrival, I was sure Benedict XVI was going to be more careful about his choice of words. And, he seems to have done his best to win peoples' hearts.

His words about our nation's founder, Ataturk, on Tuesday and his positive comments about Turkey and the EU, have all been very well received.

There have even been pictures in the papers here of the Pope with a Turkish flag - and he apparently said a few words in Turkish during his mass in Ephesus, which went down very well.

Overall, he has gone as far as a pontiff can go to act humbly.

Benedict XVI has done his best to spread a message of peace and healing
I'm sorry if I confused you when I said the Pope had made mistakes in his speech in Germany - but also that I thought he has a right to say what he believes.

I think your confusion lies in the difference between western and eastern understanding of free speech.

In the West, you are encouraged to express your opinions. If someone's ideas make you angry, you defend your position with your own ideas.

Unfortunately, it seems that in many Muslim countries violence is seen as a legitimate reaction as long you can prove you are insulted enough.

In that controversial speech in Germany, the Pope was actually trying to say that violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the soul.

I agree with you on the danger of using religion for political motives.

Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The Pope said Turkey was a religious bridge

But, despite what many in this part of the world believe, religion is almost absent from the political scene in many European countries.

At the very start of the trip there was a great sense of tension here - something that the media in both Europe and Turkey seemed to be playing on and increasing.

But that tension has dissipated, and Benedict XVI has done his best to spread a message of peace and healing.




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