In Turkey, however, the biggest splash came on Day 1, roughly a half-hour after the pope landed at the Ankara airport. In a closed-door meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had been among the most outspoken critics of Benedict XVI after the Regensburg speech, the pope indicated that he now smiles upon Turkey’s candidacy to join the European Union.
In reality, Erdogan probably engaged in a bit of spin with regard to the pope’s comments. It was Erdogan who told the press that the pope had endorsed Turkey’s EU bid, while the Vatican later clarified that the pope had not taken a political position for or against admission, but instead merely affirmed the country’s efforts at “dialogue and drawing close” to Europe.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is that Benedict XVI effectively disavowed his earlier position, expressed while still a cardinal, that Turkey is “in permanent contrast to Europe,” and that admitting it to the EU would further muddy the Christian roots of the continent.
Anyone familiar with even a smidgen of papal history knows that popes don’t often reverse field in quite so clear a fashion, [this is where I stopped reading] and the fact that Benedict did so right out of the gate crystallized the basic spirit of this Nov. 28-Dec. 1 trip, Benedict’s fifth as pope and his first to a majority Muslim state: No effort was spared to convince the Muslim world that “the pope of Regensburg,” depicted variously by Muslim critics as a neo-crusader and as the chaplain to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, is actually a friend.
I don't know if John Allen goes on to make some kind of point in his article and at this moment, I just don't really care.
I read an article someplace either yesterday or the day before about the Pope's language when he referenced the Armenian Genocide while visiting the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. Benedict didn't directly name the Genocide, but instead went with something like 'tragedy' (I forget now what words he used exactly). Some might call that being wishy-washy and wanting to be the friend of the Turks, but as the article pointed it, it was due to the fact that the Armenian Patriarchate contacted Rome before the visit to ask that Benedict not mention it. Since all those Armenians would have to deal with the Turkish backlash after the Pope went home if he had mentioned it directly.
Commentators out there can go on and on regarding Benedict XVI's actions during the trip and how he betrayed this or that position or he totally reversed himself, et cetera, et cetera. But moderation in what one says while being a stranger in a strange land =/= outright reversal of positions. Let's give Benedict some credit for showing some charity and humility while visiting a foreign land.