The passion of the pope
In Time magazine
It was not a laid-back Turkish holiday. The citizens of the proud, predominantly Muslim nation had no love of Popes. To the East, the Iranian government was galvanizing anti-Western feeling.
The news reported that an escaped killer was on the loose, threatening to assassinate the pontiff when he arrived. Yet the Holy Father was undaunted.
"Love is stronger than danger," he said. "I am in the hands of God."
He fared forward -- to Ankara, to Istanbul -- and preached the commonality of the world's great faiths. He enjoined both Christians and Muslims to "seek ties of friendship with other believers who invoke the name of a single God."
He did not leave covered with garlands, but he set a groundwork for what would be years of rapprochement between the Holy See and Islam. He was a uniter, not a divider.
That was 1979. When Benedict XVI travels to Turkey next week on his first visit to a Muslim country since becoming pope last year, he is unlikely to cloak himself in the downy banner of brotherhood, the way Pope John Paul II did during his sojourn there 27 years ago.
Instead, Benedict, 79, will arrive carrying a much different reputation: that of a hard-knuckle intellect with a taste for blunt talk and interreligious confrontation. Just 19 months into his tenure, the pope has become as much a lightning rod as a moral leader; suddenly, when he speaks, the whole world listens.
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