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Pope reassures Christians in Turkey

Newsday

For teh full story, go to Seatle Times ISTANBUL , Turkey — After spending his first day in Turkey doing his best to reconcile with Islam, Pope Benedict XVI spent his second of four days in the country connecting with the tiny Christian population here.

In a nod to the challenges faced by the roughly 90,000 Christians in Turkey , Pope Benedict spoke Wednesday of the murder in February of an Italian priest, praying in his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon when a 15-year-old Muslim boy shot him dead.

“Let us sing joyfully, even when we are tested by difficulties and dangers as we have learned from the fine witness given by the Rev. Andrea Santoro, whom I am pleased to recall in this celebration,” the pope said during a Mass at the shrine of Mary in the Turkish town of Ephesus .

Few events have so challenged the Catholic Church in Turkey since Pope Benedict became pontiff as Santoro’s murder in February. After the shooting, two more Catholic priests in Turkey were attacked.

Al-Qaida in Iraq on Wednesday issued a statement condemning his trip to a country that was once the heart of the Islamic world.

“The pope’s visit, in fact, is to consolidate the crusader campaign against the lands of Islam after the failure of the crusader leaders … and an attempt to extinguish the burning ember of Islam inside our Turkish brothers,” the statement said.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said “neither the pope nor his entourage are worried” by the statement.