After a meeting in Jerusalem with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, at the end of May, this year, His Holiness, Pope Francisc, visited Turkey these days, in order to meet His All-Holiness again. A lot of things happened. In his first day, he went to Ankara to meet Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an Islamist President. Because he doesn’t drink alcohol, he is considered “extreme Islamist”, which is lame, because the keepers of the faith are not drinking or intoxicating themselves with anything.
In the second day, in Istanbul, His Holiness Francis stood on Saturday morning with his head bowed and hands clasped in front of him for two minutes of silent prayer inside the 17th-century Blue Mosque in Sultan Ahmet district in Istanbul, aiming to show respect for Islam and encourage stronger ties between the two faiths.
“May God accept it,” Rahmi Yaran, the Grand Mufti of Istanbul told the pope at the end of the prayer.
Earlier, Yaran gave Francis a tour of the mosque which is famed for its elaborate blue tiles and cascading domes. Francis then visited the nearby Haghia Sofia, which was the main Byzantine church in Istanbul – before being turned into a mosque following Mehmet II’s conquest of the city in 1453. The Hagia Sophia is now a museum, although some groups want it to be converted back into a mosque.
A few dozen well-wishers outside Hagia Sophia waved the Turkish flag and the flag of the Holy See.
On his third and final day in Turkey, Pope Francis joined Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Orthodox Church Aya Yorgi (St. George) in Istanbul, a key meeting aimed at improving relations between the ancient western and eastern arms of Christianity.
The two religious leaders had also met several times on Saturday, when Bartholomew thanked the pontiff for his pursuit of the “fraternal and stable advance … for the restoration of full communion between our churches.”
During a Saturday evening service, Francis had bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing “for me and the Church of Rome.” This step was considered symbolically significant, given that for many years patriarchs were expected to kiss the feet of popes. The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over differences on the primacy of the papacy.
He reaffirmed that military force was justified to halt the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group’s advance, and called for greater dialogue among Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths to end fundamentalism.
Francis has also met young Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq later on Sunday. Well over a million refugees are currently in Turkey, many of them after fleeing the self-styled “Islamic State,” which has laid claim to territory in neighboring Iraq and Syria. The pope has repeatedly called for better treatment of refugees and migrants in the past. He delivered a speech to the youths.
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