|POPE MAKES HISTORIC VISIT TO MOSQUE
DAMASCUS, May 7, 01 (CWNews.com)
– Pope John Paul II made a ground- breaking visit to a mosque in
Damascus on Sunday.
"It is a great joy to enter into this sacred shrine of
Islam," the Holy Father told Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro, the Grand
Mufti of Syria. The Grand Mufti had welcomed him to the Omayyad Mosque
John Paul became the first Roman Pontiff ever to enter an Islamic
house of worship.
The Pope was greeted outside the mosque by the Grand Mufti and the
Syrian government’s minister of religious affairs. After removing
his shoes and donning white slippers in accordance with Islamic norms,
the Pontiff entered the mosque for a short visit. He spent some time
in private prayer before the tomb inside the mosque which hold the
relics of St. John the Baptist. The Omayyad Mosque was originally a
pagan shrine, and then a Christian basilica, before it was rebuilt as
a mosque in the 8th century.
After his short visit inside the mosque itself, the Pope returned to
the courtyard for an exchange of remarks with Sheikh Kaftaro. For the
second time in as many days, the Pope heard a sharp denunciation of
Israel, and responded with a quiet plea for cooperation between
Muslims and Christians. The Pope expressed his desire that
"religious leaders and professors of religion, both Muslim and
Christian, will present our two important communities as partners in
respectful dialogue, never again as communities in conflict."
Inter-religious harmony, he added, "will lead us to various forms
of cooperation, particularly in service to the poor."