World Bulletin / News Center
More than 100,000 people joined demonstrations Sunday against Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit, police said. The demonstration was the largest anti-pope protest so far ahead of Benedict's arrival Tuesday for a four-day visit, his first as pope to a predominantly Muslim country. Some 4,000 police backed by riot trucks, armored vehicles and helicopters monitored the protest as the crowds grew.
Benedict, due to begin his first official visit to a Muslim country next Tuesday, angered many Muslims in September with a speech they took as an insult to Islam. He later expressed regret but did not offer an apology.
Youths wearing headbands with Islamic scripts, beating drums and waving Turkish flags chanted "the Pope made a mistake, our patience has run out." The visit is billed as an opportunity to heal wounds with the Muslim world after the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor saying Islam was violent and irrational. He has said he did not share that view.
The protesters shouted "God is great" in Arabic and carried posters asking the pope not to come to Turkey. The party also draped banners over welcome signs along the route from
Turkish women, wearing a headband that reads:"The ignorant and sneaky pope who insulted Islam and our Prophet should not come to Turkey", chants Islamic slogans during an anti-pope rally in Istanbul.
Benedict has few fans in Turkey, which is hoping to become the first predominantly Muslim member of the European Union. The pope has previously spoken out against Turkey's EU bid, and has called for a return to fundamental Christian values in Europe.
His trip to Turkey will be his first official visit to a Muslim country. Benedict is scheduled to stay for four days. He will meet the Istanbul-based leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew I.
Speaking in the Vatican on Sunday, Benedict said he wanted the visit to show his "esteem and sincere friendship" for Turkey and its people.
Youths wearing headbands with Islamic scripts, beating drums and waving Turkish flags chanted "the Pope made a mistake, our patience has run out" during the demonstration on Sunday.
The Islamist Felicity party organizing the protest under the banner "against the crusader alliance" -- a reference to the crusaders who crossed Anatolia 1,000 years ago their way to Jerusalem -- had expected an attendance of at least 75,000.
"Muslims don't want the Pope in their lands. Look at the suffering which they spread in Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya. I link this to Christianity," said Ferdi Borekci, a 28-year-old architect.
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