Papa Ratzi travels to Turkey next week, and as noted a few days ago, "this will be the first time that a Pontiff has travelled to a country in which a best-selling novel depicts his assassination." From AKI news service in Ankara, Turkey:
"Sales of a controversial Turkish novel on a conspiracy to kill Pope Benedict XVI are on the rise ahead of the pontiff's historical visit to Turkey beginning next Wednesday - his first to an overwhelmingly Muslim nation. 'The Plot Against The Pope' is a highly speculative potboiler narrating how the conservative Roman Catholic society Opus Dei, a subversive masonic lodge and the CIA collude to make the pontiff's murder a pretext for a US attack against Iran."
"Yuvel Kaya's book, which features Benedict XVI in front of a burning cross with a bearded gunman aiming a rocket launcher at him, is on sale at major Turkish bookstores such as D&R, Kabalci, Pandora." Ughhh.
The Knights of Columbus are sponsoring a "Spiritual Pilgrimage with the Pope" starting next Tuesday, November 28. All Catholics are asked to pray daily for the Pope during his trip (Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 2006). A special prayer asking God to "sustain, inspire, and protect" Papa Ratzi can be found here. Excerpt:
We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Also in the news, a "protest" was held in the Haghia Sophia yesterday:
"Police on Wednesday detained about 40 members of a Turkish nationalist party who earlier had occupied one of Istanbul's most famous buildings, the Haghia Sophia, to protest the visit next week of Pope Benedict XVI. The protesters belong to the Great Unity Party, a far right-wing group that has previously staged demonstrations against the planned Nov. 28-Dec. 1 visit. They entered the 6th century former Byzantine church and mosque, shouting "Allahu akbar!" — "God is great!" — and then knelt to perform Islamic prayers. They also shouted a warning to Benedict: "Pope, don't make a mistake, don't wear out our patience."
"Benedict is scheduled to tour the Haghia Sophia, which is a source of religious sensitivity in Turkey. It was one of the world's greatest churches for more than 1,000 years, but was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Today, the Haghia Sophia is a museum, and public religious ceremonies inside are forbidden.There has been intense debate in Turkey about whether the pope will pray inside the Haghia Sophia, with some saying that doing so would be a political act and an attempt to reclaim its status as a great Christian church." (Click to enlarge photo, source here.)
The Hagia Sophia wasn't just "one of the greatest churches" for 1,000 years, it was the greatest church, a "supreme masterpiece of Byzantine architecture." The conversion to a mosque included building minarets around the perimeter of the building complex and whitewashing Christian mosaic icons. The Hagia Sophia - with its lofty central domes supported on columns - served as model for the great Turkish mosques of Constantinople.