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Pope calls on Turkey to recognize legal status of Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI on Friday called on Ankara to recognize the legal status of the Catholic Church in Turkey.

Turkey's new ambassador to the Vatican, Muammer Dogan Akdur, met with Pope Benedict on Friday and presented his letter of credential.

During the meeting, Pope Benedict cited the difficulties of non-Muslim minorities in Turkey and asked for stronger efforts by the government to ensure better implementation of their rights.

According to the Anatolia agency, the pope underlined that the Turkish Constitution secures religious rights for all Turkish citizens and said that Catholics in Turkey should also enjoy these rights without discrimination. The Pope also asked for the recognition of the legal status of the Catholic Church, and called for stronger dialogue between the government and the Catholic community in order to address their problems.

Benedict told Akdur that he hoped all religions would strive for peace "beginning by denouncing violence, which too often in the past has been motivated on religious grounds."

The pope also referred to his visit to Turkey last November, which went by without negative incidents, despite fears for his safety because of tensions caused by a speech he made just months before in which he appeared to criticize Islam.

"During the course of my memorable trip to Turkey, I manifested on several occasions the great respect that the Catholic Church has for Islam and for the Muslim faithful," Benedict said.

A visit to Istanbul's Sultanahmet Mosque, (Blue Mosque), during which he prayed together with a Muslim cleric remained one of the fondest memories of his trip, the pope said.