Generally speaking, popes are good box office. They draw quite a crowd.
Over the years, I saw Pope John Paul II in person three times, including once here in the United States. The reception was always extraordinary and emotional: people welcomed him with both cheers, and with tears. He was a rare modern figure who blended holiness and heroism, along with a compelling personal charisma. He radiated that indefinable something that makes people sit up and take notice. Even his silence was eloquent.
Pope Benedict is different, but no less of a draw. His weekly audiences at St. Peter's have been packed. It's said that when he was a professor in Germany, his lectures were standing room only. People were hungry for what he had to say, and loved to listen to him teach.
That hasn't happened in Turkey. The pontiff is making an historic trip to a Muslim country, following his controversial remarks about Islamtwo months ago. The reception has been, perhaps understandably, cool.
Correspondent Allen Pizzey has been tracking his trip so far and reports:
At no point were there any cheering, adoring crowds. Not even small groups of curious onlookers as far as we saw; just a few token yellow and white papal banners wafting ever so slightly in the haze that passes for air here. But then, 99 percent of Turkey's 70 million people are Muslims, and if local newspaper headlines are to be believed, they don't want much to do with the pope anyway...For more, check out Allen Pizzey's reporter's notebook.