Yes, well, what else could he say after all the affection and warmth the Muslims in Turkey have shown him?
“Pope defuses tensions on visit to Muslim Turkey,” by Philip Pullella and Selcuk Gokoluk for Reuters:
ANKARA (Reuters) – Pope Benedict told Turkey on Tuesday he backed its bid to join the European Union and believed Islam was a religion of peace, hoping to soothe rows overshadowing a delicate visit to the mainly Muslim country.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hailed the comments, which he said Benedict made to him in their private talk at the airport, and Turkish commentators said they changed the tone of a visit clouded by disputes over the Pope’s view of Islam.
Asked about Turkey’s EU entry bid, which Benedict opposed before his 2005 election as Pope, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Vatican took no political stand but supported Turkey’s entry “on the basis of common values and principles.”
And what are those common values and principles, exactly?
Security was heavy but protests rare under Ankara’s sunny skies as Benedict arrived, laid a wreath at the mausoleum of the republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and met Turkey’s president and director of religious affairs.
Erdogan, who had originally said he was too busy to meet the Pope, greeted Benedict warmly as he descended from his airplane and held short talks with him before leaving for the NATO summit in Riga.
“He said we are not political but we wish for Turkey to join the EU,” Erdogan told journalists after meeting the Pope.
Erdogan, who began his career in Islamic politics, added: “The most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, he reiterated his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate.”
Yes. Cuddly, even. No Salman-Rushdieism here about Islam being the “least huggable of faiths.” The intellectual acrobatics required for this aren’t really all that difficult. Just decide a priori that all those committing violence in the name of Islam aren’t really Muslims. Then all that are left are the poor victims of “Islamophobia.”