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Pope is in Ankara

Source: BRT  
28 November 2006

Pope Benedict the 16th, has arrived in Ankara at the start of a four day official visit - his first to a country, the population of which, is predominantly Muslim.

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan who is flying to the Latvian capital Riga for the NATO Summit, met with the spiritual leader of the Catholic world at the airport, delaying his flight for about half an hour.

Speaking during his meeting with the Turkish Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Pope described his visit as an opportunity for reconciliation and dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

The Pope told the prime minister he wanted to visit Turkey because it was a bridge between religions and cultures.

"I want to reiterate the solidarity between the cultures, this is our duty” he added.

Formerly an opponent to Turkey joining the EU, the Pope also told the Turkish Prime Minister that he has changed his mind and now supports Ankara's membership bid.

The Pope’s first visit was to the mausoleum of the founder of Modern Turkey – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

He was then received by the Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer with an official ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Cankaya.

As part of his visit, the Pope also today met with the Deputy Prime Minister-Minister of State Mehmet Ali Sahin and later with the Head of the Religious Affairs of the secular Republic, Ali Bardakoglu.

On the second day of his visit, the Pope is expected to meet the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, and the head of the Jewish Religious Society of Turkey, Rav Isaak Haleva.

He is also expected to travel to Ephesus near Izmir to say mass at the site where the Virgin Mary is believed to have died.

An unprecedented high level of security is in force in the cities and towns to be visited by the Pope, with thousands of police and anti-riot units being deployed.

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