Pope’s upcoming visit to Turkey complicated with anti-Islam remarks

Catholic bishops gathered for a special meeting in the capital of Turkey, Istanbul, today to discuss the pope’s forthcoming visit to Turkey. The visit is to take place amid the international scandal caused by the pope’s remarks against Islam and the holy war.

A chorus of voices in Turkey have been calling for Pope Benedict XVI to cancel his November visit - his first trip to a Muslim country as pontiff - if he does not apologize for his remarks, which were widely seen as derogatory to Islam.

The bishops meeting in Istanbul was scheduled long ago and was closed to the press, Vatican officials said. They said there would be no official announcement after the meeting.

The pope's comments - in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who linked Islam and violence and characterized some of the teachings of Islam's founder as "evil and inhuman" - have dominated news coverage for several days in Turkey and across much of the Muslim world.

They have not, however, yet sparked the violent outrage across the Islamic world that followed the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad earlier this year.

On Sunday, Benedict said he was deeply sorry his words offended Muslims and that the statement quoted did not reflect his own opinions. He said his intention with those remarks was to encourage honest and open dialogue.

Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, said the pope's apology was "indirect."

"He didn't apologize because his words were excessive, but because they were misunderstood," Bardakoglu said. Bardakoglu said the Islamic world was still waiting for an apology, the AP says.

"This 'I'm sorry' either has to be said fully or it shouldn't be said at all," he said.

Benedict is scheduled to visit Turkey from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, where a focus of his visit will be meeting with the Istanbul-based leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Bartholomew I.