Vatican says "no" to violence as al-Qaeda denounces Pope's Turkey visit

A message purporting to be from the al-Qaeda terrorist group has denounced Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey as a "crusader campaign" but a Vatican spokesperson says such a message shows the urgency of a common commitment against "violence in the name of God".

According to an International Herald Tribune report, Vatican spokesman Msgr Federico Lombardi said that the statement shows "the need of various faiths to say 'no' to violence in the name of God."

Msgr Lombardi said "neither the Pope nor his entourage are worried" by the statement, which was posted on several Islamic militant websites used to publish al-Qaeda statements.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq called the Pope's four-day visit to mostly Muslim Turkey part of a "crusader campaign" against Islam.

"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.

The Vatican website also came under attack yesterday in an effort organized by the leadership of 'electronic jihad' to down the site, Israel Insider says.

Describing the perpetrators a "e-jihadists", the paper said that they distributed programs to dozens of hackers around the world in order to stage a multi-pronged attack on the site as Pope Benedict XVI visited the Islamic nation of Turkey.

However, the papal visit continued peacefully and unhindered as Pope Benedict celebrated Mass next to the ruins of a house where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last years, and security forces had sealed off the area< Ireland Online says.

Only 250 invited guests attended the event, making it one of the smallest crowds to attend a papal Mass.

The Vatican said the site could accommodate up to 2,000 people. Many of those attending held small Turkish and Vatican flags.

In bright sunshine, the pope stood on a dais under a white, flower-covered canopy.

St John the Apostle is believed to have brought the Virgin Mary to the house to care for her after Jesus' death. But another tradition says that Mary died in Jerusalem.

Speaking during the Mass, Pope Benedict said that Christ has made Jews and Gentiles "into one".

"Christ 'came to proclaim peace', not only between Jews and non-Jews, but between all nations, since all have their origin in the same God," he said.

"Strengthened by God's word, from here in Ephesus, a city blessed by the presence of Mary Most Holy - who we know is loved and venerated also by Muslims - let us lift up to the Lord a special prayer for peace between peoples," the Pope said.

"Peace for all of humanity! May Isaiah's prophecy soon be fulfilled: 'They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more'.

The Pope said that there is a universal yearning for peace and reconciliation.

"The Church is called to be not only the prophetic herald, but even more, the 'sign and instrument' of this peace. Against the backdrop of universal peace, the yearning for full communion and concord between all Christians becomes even more profound and intense," he said.

Vatican: al-Qaida denunciation of pope shows need to fight 'violence in the name of God' (International Herald Tribune, 29/11/06)

Pope celebrates Mass at ancient Christian site (Ireland Online, 29/11/06)

Pope Honors Slain Priest in Turkey (Forbes, 29/11/06)
Dialogue between Christians and Muslims is a "vital necessity", says Pope (AsiaNews, 29/11/06)
Online terrorists launch 'e-jihad' attack on Vatican website (Israel Insider, 29/11/06)
Pope: From 'Mary's House', let us invoke peace for the Holy Land and humanity (AsiaNews, 29/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Vatican
Ecumenical Patriarch

Peaceful Pope promotes brotherhood, backs Turkey for EU (CathNews, 29/11/06)
Benedict to brave protests over Turkey visit (CathNews, 28/11/06)
Istanbul man fires shots in suspected protest over Benedict visit (CathNews, 3/11/06)
Pope Turkey trip looking likely for November (CathNews, 8/9/05)

30 Nov 2006