posted at 18:50
Author Name: Stuart Williams
Pope heads to Istanbul in symbolic visit
He will begin his visit with a tour of Hagia Sophia, the great Byzantine church that was turned into a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople but then became a secular museum for all in modern day Turkey. His every gesture will be scrutinised later in the day when he visits the Sultan Ahmet mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, one of the greatest masterpieces of Ottoman architecture. "We are eagerly awaiting the visit of our brother, Pope Francis," Bartholomew said ahead of the visit. Of these only the small Franco-Levantine and Chaldean communities regard the pope as the head of their churches. The pope held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Friday, calling for dialogue between faiths to end the Islamist extremism plaguing the Middle East. The pope's visit is seen as a crucial test of his ability to build bridges between faiths amid the rampage by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria and concerns over the persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East. Erdogan - who welcomed Pope Francis as the first foreign dignitary to his controversial new presidential palace outside Ankara - for his part issued a strong warning about rising Islamophobia in the world. Police will reportedly be on hand to supervise the pope's two-day visit to Istanbul.

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