Istanbul (AsiaNews) - A visit to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque marked the first morning of Pope Francis in Istanbul, where he arrived this morning from Ankara.
In his visit to the Blue Mosque (pictured), the Pope - who took off his shoes - was accompanied by the Grand Mufti, another mufti and two imams. Entering the Mosque, the Grand Mufti recited a few verses from the Koran for the Pope. Then he led him to the "mihrab", the niche indicating the direction of Mecca, where the Grand Mufti explained the origin of the word "mihrab", also speaking of the figure of Zechariah, John's birth, the birth of Elizabeth and Mary. At that point both men gathered for a few minutes of silence. The Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi noted that it was a "silent adoration", because during the visit to the Mosque the Pope said twice "we must worship God", adding "we must not only praise and glorify him, but we have to worship him".
Father Lombardi also explained that, before the "mihrab" in the Blue Mosque in the
Grand Mufti quoted verses from
the Koran that speak of God,
the "God of
love and justice." "On this we agree," he then said to the Pope, who
replied: "Yes, of course,
The '"silent adoration" was, according to Father Federico Lombardi "a beautiful moment of interreligious dialogue". For the Vatican spokesman Francis did "the very same thing Benedict XVI did eight years ago".
Francis is the is the third pope to enter a mosque. The first was John Paul II on 6 May 2001 he went to the Mosque of the Umayyads of Damascus. Eight years ago it was Benedict XVI who visited the Blue Mosque.
Before the visit to the Islamic temple, Pope Francis had gone to Hagia Sofia. It was once the largest church in the Christian East, then it was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans, then into a museum by Ataturk and is currently in the sights of Muslims who would it to be returned to a mosque. Concluding his visit there the Pope, wrote on the Golden Book in greek and in Latin. In greek "Agia Sophia Theou Tou", which means "Saint Sofia of God". He subsequently wrote in Latin, a citation from Psalm 83 which translates as, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord".