Pope Benedict XVI left Ankara yesterday, following official meetings with both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and headed for Izmir's Selcuk province, where he led a mass at the Church of the Virgin Mary.
Speaking after the mass, Pope Benedict XVI borrowed from words spoken years ago by Pope Johannes XXIII, who said "I love the Turks, and admire their natural qualities." After his speech in Selcuk, the Pope waved the Turkish flags for crowds who had come to see him.
Yesterday's mass at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Selcuk was attended by an estimated 550 people, including guests from Sri Lanka, the Virgin Islands, the US, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Speaking after the opening prayers at the mass, which lasted for 1.5 hours, the Pope mentioned two of his predecessors who had visited the same Church of the Virgin Mary, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II. He also talked about Pope Johannes XXIII, who before becoming Pope, had been the papal representative in Turkey between January 1935 and December 1944. Recalling Pope Johannes XXIII's good relations with Turks and Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday repeated words from Pope Johannes XXIII: "I love the Turks, and I admire their natural qualities." The Pope also talked about the importance he attached to the position Turkey holds in the world as a bridge between cultures: "As a bridge between continents, it is critical that peace and well-being live in harmony on this soil."
At the end of his 8 minute talk, which the Pope delivered in Italian, he spoke his final words in Turkish: "Aziz Meryem, bizim icin dua et," or "Holy Mary, pray for us."