Pope Francis was met by Turkey’s Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew on Saturday as he arrived at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on the second day of his visit to the mainly Muslim country.
His visit is being seen as highly symbolic, demonstrating respect for Islam and encouraging interfaith relations.
The Pope visited the city’s sacred Blue Mosque where he prayed together with the Grand Mufti of Istanbul and other Muslim leaders.
He declined a state Mercedes in favour of a humble Renault Clio for his trip from the Mosque to the Haghia Sofia Museum. The building used to be the main Byzantine church in the city, that at the time was known as Constantinople. It was turned into a Mosque in 1453 after the Muslim conquest.
The visit is about peace and reconciliation but nevertheless the Turkish security forces were taking no chances and were out in force in the streets.
Yesterday in the capital Ankara, Francis urged Muslim leaders to condemn the “barbaric violence” being committed in Islam’s name against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.
His visit is due to come to an end on Sunday.