Pope Benedict XVI (file photo) (epa)
November 25, 2006 -- The Vatican said today that Pope Benedict XVI may visit Istanbul's Sultanahmet Mosque -- known as the Blue Mosque -- during his visit to Turkey next week.
Italian media reports say Turkish officials suggested the pope visit Turkey's most famous mosque as a sign of reconciliation. The brief visit would come just before or after the pope visits the nearby Aja Sofya museum on November 30.
The pope angered Muslims worldwide in September with remarks that were seen as critical of Islam. Last week, Turkey's top Islamic cleric, Ali Bardakoglu, said the pope's first trip to a mostly Muslim nation could help calm the situation:
"There is an increased tension in the world that worries everyone, all of us," Bardakoglu said. "In such a tense situation the religious leaders and state leaders should keep the door of dialogue open. That's why we see the pope's visit to Turkey as a positive step towards developing dialogue."
Hundreds of thousands of Turks are expected to attend protest rallies during the German-born pope's four-day visit, which begins on November 28.