Demonstrators gathered in Istanbul on Sunday in the largest anti-pope protest so far. Police expected thousands to attend. The protest was organized by a pro-Islamic political party whose leaders have said they were offended by Benedict's comments linking violence and Islam. Pope Benedict XVI, who leaves for Turkey on Tuesday, expressed esteem and friendship for Turks and their leaders, and asked for prayers Sunday for his pilgrimage to Turkey. "Dear brothers and sisters, as you know in the coming days, I will go to Turkey," Benedict said at his traditional appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square. "From this moment, I want to send a cordial greeting to the dear Turkish people, rich in history and culture," he said. "To this people and their leaders I express feelings of esteem and of sincere friendship," the pope said.