Rorate Caeli

For the "First Time in History", "silent adoration" and open prayer by a Pope in a Mosque

From Le Figaro's Vaticanist, Jean-Marie Guénois:
Pope Francis dares to pray at the Blue Mosque of Istanbul 
November 29, 2014.

On the second day of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis went further than his predecessor Benedict XVI by praying openly in the Blue Mosque side by side with the Grand Mufti.

From our special envoy to Istanbul.

Pope Francis prayed explicitly, on Saturday morning, in the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, side by side with the Grand Mufti. It is a first. At the same spot, in 2006, Benedict XVI had simply remained in contemplation. Moreover, in a very discrete way. Enough to raise controversy. Some said that the German pope had then "prayed" in the mosque. For others, no, because a Christian, the Pope even more so, could not, they affirmed, pray thus in a Muslim place of worship. Prudently, the Vatican had settled on the "contemplation" of Benedict XVI.

It is undoubtedly in order to avoid ambiguity, but above all out of profound conviction - Francis inserts "dialogue" with others, and other religions, as a priority of his pontificate - that the successor of Benedict XVI, in the same mosque, did therefore very visibly cross his fingers, bowed his head for a long time while deeply closing his eyes, from two to three minutes, in order to obviously pray. And to…make clear that he was praying. And this in the direction of the Mihrab, that niche in the wall framed by two pillars that indicates the qibla, that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.

A strong gesture in the form of a message that is inscribed in the [general] line of this voyage, that is understood as an stretched-out hand to Islam in order to fight "fundamentalism", as Francis explained yesterday in Ankara, on the first day of the visit. It will end tomorrow, when the Pope will attend the Orthodox Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Bartholomew.

Some moments after this spectacular prayer, on Saturday morning, Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, hastened to specify that it was, in fact, a "silent adoration". The Pope, according to Lombardi, had also said to his Muslim host, "we must adore God".

This stopover at the mosque, where no address was expected, should be one of the strong moments of his three-day visit to Turkey. It was so, but it will remain as a strong gesture by Pope Francis. Because he will have dared to do there what none of his predecessors had ever done: to pray openly in a mosque side by side with a Muslim dignitary. (Source, in French)