hailed for praying towards
Mecca like Muslims
Pope Benedict ended a sensitive,
visit to Turkey on Friday amid praise for visiting Istanbul's famed
Blue Mosque and praying there facing towards Mecca "like Muslims".
Pope, who sparked protests across the Muslim world with
two months ago seen as criticising Islam, looked relaxed and pleased as
he entered the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit for a mass at the end of
the four-day trip.
first visit to a mostly Muslim country, held under tight
security for fear of protests by nationalists and Islamists, was
highlighted by a series of conciliatory gestures culminating in a stop
on Thursday afternoon in Istanbul's famed Blue Mosque.
Grand Mufti Mustafa Cagrici, who prayed with him
said Benedict had faced Mecca and stood like Muslims do when they pray
aright. "These were very nice gestures," he told NTV television.
Pope's dreaded visit was concluded with a wonderful
wrote daily Aksam on its front page. "In Sultan Ahmet Mosque, he turned
towards Mecca and prayed like Muslims," the popular daily Hurriyet
said, using the building's official name.
before leaving, Benedict said he hoped his visit was
seen as "a
sign of friendship between religions" that helps bring countries and
cultures closer together.
gestures, including support for Ankara's bid to join the
European Union and praise for Islam as a peaceful faith, seem to have
persuaded the Turks to move beyond the tension following his speech
quoting a Byzantine emperor as calling Islam violent.
in Islam's Middle Eastern heartland, Arab commentators
call for Benedict to issue a full apology for his speech. Shocked by
the protests it triggered, the Pope has said he did not agree with the
controversial quote but has not apologised.
officials also presented the mosque visit as a key
would compare the Pope's visit to the mosque to Pope John
gestures at the Western Wall," said veteran Vatican mediator Cardinal
Roger Etchegaray, referring to Pope John Paul II's prayers at
Jerusalem's Western Wall in 2000.
Benedict did with the Muslims what John Paul did
TRIP BRINGS OUT THE DIPLOMAT
told Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler at the city's
before leaving for Rome that his visit to the Blue Mosque and the
nearby Aya Sofya museum, once a Christian church and then a mosque, had
"left a lasting impression" on him.
part of my heart stays here in Istanbul," he said,
city as "profoundly European" and a bridge between Europe and Asia. "I
hope (my visit) "has the effect of bringing structures and
civilisations progressively closer."
trip brought out the diplomat in the theologian who was
to take a tougher stand on Islam than his more outgoing predecessor
did press during the trip for more freedom of
Turkey and by extension in other mostly Muslim countries, but not in
the confrontational way some Church officials expected after he was
elected Pope in April 2005.
30,000 of Turkey's 100,000 Christians are Roman
mostly living in Istanbul and Izmir.
There were only scattered protests against the
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