ISTANBUL — On the second leg of his trip to Turkey, Pope Francis was welcomed on Saturday by curious bystanders and tourists from around the world as he visited the historical district here to deliver his message of further interreligious dialogue for peace.
Istanbul, which is home to several cultural landmarks for both Christians and Muslims, offered the pope an ideal venue to put his message into action. The pope, 77, first visited the Sultan Ahmet Mosque of Muslims, then Hagia Sophia, now a museum but formerly the leading temple for Eastern Orthodox Christians. Both monumental structures overlook the same yard.
In the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, the pope did not wrap his hands under his chest to resemble the Islamic tradition, as did his predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2006, but he bowed his head and clasped his hands alongside the city’s senior cleric for a two-minute silent prayer, both facing the direction of Mecca. “May Allah accept it,” said Rahmi Yaran, the grand mufti of Istanbul, as the two finished their prayers.