Pope Benedict prays with Muslims in the Blue Mosque in Turkey.
I was surprised to see Pope Benedict make the gesture of praying with Muslims at the Blue Mosque in Turkey during his recent visit. This unprecendented act will surely send a powerful message of reconciliation and tolerance across the Muslim world:
Damage control undoubtedly was on the agenda of his first visit to a predominantly Muslim country. But his comments to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on his "particular esteem" for Muslims were noteworthy even if scripted. He repeatedly made the point that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God. Proving the point, his hosts embraced his expressions of goodwill.From the Palm Beach Post
Among such gestures of reconciliation, however, Pope Benedict's unscripted prayer during a visit to Istanbul's spectacular Blue Mosque along with the grand mufti, Mustafa Cagrici, was a hallmark. The pope's own deep meditation, facing Mecca, marked the first time a pope had prayed in a mosque with a Muslim imam. As they emerged from the mosque, he told the grand mufti that the visit "will help us to find together the means and paths of peace for the good of humanity."
None of that means the pope should stop agitating for religious freedom as a fundamental human right. Still he hardly could have picked a better place to stand against ignorance and intolerance, and to signal that the Crusades are finally over, than in democratic, secular and overwhelming Muslim Turkey, a bridge between Asia and Europe, east and west.
Those who would continue demanding an apology for the pope's September comments instead should be demanding that the world understand how far from upholding the standards of their faith were protesters when, in retaliation, they murdered an Italian nun in Somalia and attacked churches in the Middle East.
The prophet Mohammed can receive the regard from Christians that Muslims hold for Jesus and his mother, Mary, only through the respect, dialogue and understanding that Pope Benedict urged in Turkey. He showed again that good human relations usually trump religious one-upmanship.