Vatican City, Nov 29, 2014 / 06:04 am
During Pope Francis' 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 Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. 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 happened in 2006 with Pope Benedict, it was exactly the same."
Fr. 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, Fr. Lombardi said that upon his arrival, the Roman Pontiff 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.
President of the Turkish Episcopal Conference Bishop Smirme Franceschini offered a welcoming address before the Pope went inside.
The Bishop of Rome was accompanied into the mosque by Ankara's Grand Mufti Mehmet Görmez and two imam. After entering, the Grand Mufti explained to the Pope some versus 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 Muftì: we must adore God," Fr. Lombardi said.
It was a true moment of interreligious dialogue, he observed, noting that afterward the Grand Mufti cited more versus of the Quran which refer to God as a God of love and justice.
Fr. Lombardi recalled how the Mufti said to Pope Francis that "'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 Roman Pontiff 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!"
The spokesman said that the Pope is now eating lunch, and will later preside over mass in Istanbul's Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
In response to questions surrounding the Pope's final appointment tomorrow afternoon, in which he will visit with students from Salesian school for refugees in the apostolic nunciature, Fr. Lombardi said that there are no new details and told journalists not to expect "a surprise visit to a refugee camp."