Europe

Pope in 'silent adoration' in Istanbul Blue Mosque

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

Pope Francis has stood in "silent adoration" in Istanbul's Blue Mosque alongside the city's top Muslim cleric on the second day of his Turkey visit.

The Pope later visited the Hagia Sofia - a church turned into a mosque and then a museum.

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.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBBC's Mark Lowen: ''The Pope's visit is all about religious symbolism''

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

Healing schism

At the Blue Mosque, 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.

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.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Pope admired the Hagia Sofia - a church that was turned into a mosque and now is a museum
Image copyright AP
Image caption The Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew I ahead of Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit
Image copyright AP
Image caption The Pope was welcomed to Istanbul by Patriarch Bartholomew I

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

The pontiff has celebrated Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

As he arrived in Istanbul, the Pope was met by the leader of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I.

Francis and Bartholomew have a strong personal relationship, and discussions are expected to focus on healing the schism in the Christian Church in 1054 that divided Rome and Constantinople.

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".

Related Topics

More on this story