March the 5th, the first day of the Pope’s visit to Iraq, is treated with care by the Turkish press, that underline the importance of the event and the possibility that this can make a positive contribution to the region.
“Hurriyet”, the first national newspaper, publishes an interview with the Turkish Ambassador to the Vatican previously broadcasted by Anadolu Ajansi. Lütfullah Göktaş sees the visit as positive one for the stability of the region (bölgenin istikrarına olumlu katkı sağlayabileceğini) and statues that Turkey would be happy (memnun edeceğini söyledi) if this is the case. The point is that of stability, that the Diplomat introduces as a matter of sufferance for his own Country in every occasion (Türkiye, bölgede istikrarın önemini her fırsatta vurgulayan bir ülke). He also adds that it is the lack of authority that opens doors to sectarism, fanatism (mezhepçilik ve taassup) and terrorism and that the visit will, once more, remind these truths (ziyareti, bu gerçeklerin bir kez daha hatırlanmasına vesile olacaktır).
The interview with the Ambassador is perhaps the most interesting contribution of the day in the entire press of the Country as it directly reports a government source and reveals how much Turkey wishes to show the difficult situation of Iraq as a cause of suffering and instability for Turkey itself. Among the sources of instability and terrorism, in addition to the Islamic State, the Ambassador mentions the PKK explicitly.
Yeni Şafak, close to the ruling party and more conservative, in the last three days has devoted an article a day to the visit, demonstrating an even warmer tone. He defines the visit as a novelty in history (tarihte bir ilk) and an occasion for mutual encounter between religions (dinler arası buluşma için bir fırsat) and a gesture of love for Christians (Hristiyanlara sevgi jesti“) and for all those living in that region (o topraklara, oranın insanlarına.). The article of yesterday March the 4th underlines the ecumenism inherent in Bergoglio’s message, reporting the greeting formula, modeled on the Islamic style, that the Pope addressed to all “Iraqi brothers” (“Iraklı kardeşlerim selamun aleyküm”) and the Abrahamitic brotherhood (Müslümanları, Yahudileri ve Hristiyanları tek bir ailede birleştiren İbrahim babanın adına) saying he is getting Irak with the desire to pray, march together (birlikte dua etmek, birlikte yürümek arzusuyla geliyorum) with a continuous reference to the words of the Pontiff, reported directly with extensive use of quotation marks.
Sözcü, Kemalist, focuses attention on the reference made by Francis to the International Organizations and on how their absence has determined the Yazidis tragedy, then recalling that no Iraqi citizen is a second-class citizen.
Persian press is unanimous in describing in a very succinct way the welcoming ceremony received by the Pope and the fact that his trip could endanger the health situation of the country due to the Coronavirus. Kayhan, the most conservative of the Persian newspapers, reports how some regional observers have noticed a political ramification of a trip defined as unusual, believing that the insistence on making the visit despite the pandemic is based on the Western will to create a schism between the Shiite schools of Najaf and Qom (the name of the Great Ayatollah Sistani is not mentioned) and how this is in line with the promotion of the so-called “Abrahamic Pact” sponsored by Israel and the United States.
No mention to fraternal love or local development is made to leave space for a much more critical interpretation of the Pope’s visit.