Pope Francis’ Prayer at Blue Mosque Mirrored Benedict XVI’s

The Pope prayed at the Muslim mosque in Istanbul, alongside the grand mufti of Ankara.

Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque.
Istanbul's Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque. (photo: CNA)

VATICAN CITY — During Pope Francis’ Nov. 29 visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, he paused for a moment of prayer alongside Ankara’s grand mufti — a moment of “interreligious dialogue” which mirrored that of his predecessor.

When they were under the dome, the Pope insisted: "Not only must we praise and glorify him, but we must adore him,” Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Nov. 29. “Therefore. it is reasonable to qualify this moment of silence a moment of silent adoration.”

“[It was] a beautiful moment of interreligious dialogue, and it the exact same thing that happened in 2006 with Pope Benedict; it was exactly the same.”

Father Lombardi offered his statement to the head of the Holy See Press Office association of journalists by telephone. The message was then relayed to the journalists present in the press center in Istanbul.

Pope Francis’ visit to the historic Sultan Ahmet Mosque, known as the “Blue Mosque” due to the blue tiles covering the inside, marks the third time a pope has ever gone inside, the first being St. John Paul II in 1979.

In his statement, Father Lombardi said that, upon his arrival, the Pope was greeted in the Mosque’s garden by a group of 50-60 people coming from different Christian communities — including Latin, Coptic, Syro and Armenian — as well as their bishops.

The president of the Turkish Episcopal Conference, Bishop Smirme Franceschini, offered a welcoming address before the Pope went inside.

The Holy Father was accompanied into the mosque by Ankara Grand Mufti Mehmet Görmez and two imams. After entering, the grand mufti explained to the Pope some verses from the Quran in which Niqab spoke of Zachariah, the birth of John the Baptist, of Elizabeth and Mary.

Once the grand mufti finished speaking, he and the Pope “took a moment of silence, a silent adoration, [and] the Pope said twice to the Mufti: 'We must adore God,'” Father Lombardi said.

It was a true moment of interreligious dialogue, he observed, noting that, afterward, the grand mufti cited more verses of the Quran that refer to God as a God of love and justice.

Father Lombardi recalled how the mufti said to Pope Francis, “‘On that, we are agreed.’ And the Pope said: ‘Yes, on that we are agreed.’ It was also a beautiful moment of dialogue.”

After leaving the mosque, the Pope went to visit the nearby Hagia Sofia, which is a former Greek-Orthodox patriarchal basilica that was later turned into an imperial mosque and is now a museum.

While inside, Pope Francis signed the museum’s Golden Book, writing in Greek" “St. Sofia, Holy Wisdom of God,” and cited a passage in Latin from Psalm 84 that says: “How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!”

Pope Benedict XVI waves at the World Family Meeting in Milan with Cardinal Angelo Scola on June 4, 2012.

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