السبت , يونيو 13 2020

Pope to conclude symbolic Turkey trip

Pope Francis (left) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Photo: 29 November 2014Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I have a strong personal relationship

Pope Francis is to conclude his three-day visit to Turkey aimed at strengthening interfaith relations.

In Istanbul, he will have another meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians.

The talks will focus on healing the schism in the Christian Church in 1054 that divided Rome and Constantinople.

On Saturday, the pontiff stood in “silent adoration” in the Blue Mosque with the city’s top Muslim cleric.

On Friday, he called for an interfaith dialogue to counter fanaticism and fundamentalism during a visit to the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The Pope’s trip is only the fourth visit by a pontiff to Turkey.

There are about 120,000 Christians in Turkey – most of the country’s 80 million citizens are Muslims.

‘Fratricidal wars’

On Sunday, Francis will also meet Turkey’s chief rabbi, whose flock has diminished to just 17,000 people.

Pope Francis (L) is escorted by Mufti Rahmi Yaran upon their arrival inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque - the Blue Mosque - in Istanbul.The Pope’s visit to Istanbul is rich in religious symbolism – the city was the capital of the Byzantine empire

At the Blue Mosque on Saturday, one of the greatest masterpieces of Ottoman architecture, the Pope turned east towards Mecca, clasped his hands and paused for two minutes as the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, performed a Muslim prayer.



Pope Francis is shown around the Blue Mosque

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BBC’s Mark Lowen: ”The Pope’s visit is all about religious symbolism”

The Pope then visited Hagia Sofia – which for almost 1,000 years was the most important Orthodox cathedral, then for nearly five centuries a mosque under the Ottomans, and is currently a museum.

Istanbul was the Byzantine capital, known as Constantinople, until the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

For a city that passed from the Byzantines to the Ottomans, a place where religions, empires and cultures collided, the Pope’s message of interfaith dialogue has profound resonance, says the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul.

In Ankara on Friday, the Pope stressed this message. He also called for a renewed Middle East peace push, saying the region had “for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars”.

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