“Amid heavy security and curious looks Pope Francis visited the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Later he visited Patriarch Bartholomew I. With these visits the Pope showed the Vatican’s desire to improve dialogue between Islam and Christianity and also dialogue with the Greek Orthodox Church.” reports euronews correspondent Bora Bayraktar from Istanbul.
The pontiff’s interfaith message struck a chord in Istanbul where cultures, empires and religions have collided throughout the centuries.
“The Pope is the messenger of peace for Christians towards other faiths,” said one Spanish tourist in Istanbul. “I think it’s a great idea to visit a mosque and that we visit mosques and Muslims visit our churches.”
After reaching out to Turkey’s Muslim community, Francis sought to heal a schism with the Orthodox church represented by Patriarch Bartholomew I.
In an ecumenical ceremony he bowed before Bartholomew and asked for his blessings.
To which the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians obliged.
The pope is scheduled to hold a joint ceremony on Sunday with Bartholomew to renew their commitment to reunite the eastern and western branches of Christianity.