Pope Shifts Focus to Christian Rights

November 30, 2006

Author: Scott Rank and Stacy Meichtry

Source: Beliefnet

Wire Service: AP


ISTANBUL, Turkey - Pope Benedict XVI joined an Islamic cleric in prayers under the towering dome of Istanbul's most famous mosque Thursday in a powerful gesture seeking to transform his image among Muslims from adversary to peacemaker.

The pope's minute of prayer was carried out in silence, but the message of reconciliation was designed to resonate loudly nearly three months after he provoked fury for remarks on violence and the Prophet Muhammad.

"This visit will help us find together the way of peace for the good of all humanity," the pope said inside the 17th century Blue Mosque - in only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, made a brief stop in a mosque in Syria in 2001.

Benedict's steps through a stone archway and into the mosque's carpeted expanse capped a day of deep symbolism and lofty goals. Hours earlier, he stood beside the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians and passionately encouraged steps to end the nearly 1,000-year divide between their churches.