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Believers united against fanaticism

· In Turkey the Pope condemns using religion as a justification for violence ·

Barefoot and hands folded, Francis paused for a few long moments in silence next to the Grand Mufti in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul. This meaningful moment — similar to a moment during Benedict XVI's visit in 2006 — the second day of the papal visit in Turkey began.

The Pontiff left Ankara on Saturday morning, 29 November, arriving at the banks of the Bosphorus, where he was greeted by Patriarch Bartholomew, as well as other authorities. The Holy Father also met with the Patriarch at the Phanar for an ecumenical prayer, and the two met again on Sunday for divine liturgy and to sign the common declaration.

Later on Saturday, the Pope visited the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum. Before leaving the museum, he signed the guest book with the words: “holy wisdom of God” in Greek and “how lovely are your sanctuaries, Lord” in Latin. Returning to the Pontifical Representation in Istanbul, Francis greeted the small delegation of various Eastern Catholic communities. In the afternoon, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Father.

His first day on Turkish soil was marked by the Pope's strong call to all believers for solidarity with an invitation to dialogue and collaborate in order to combat all forms of fanaticism and fundamentalism. First to the political authorities and then to the Muslim community in the Diyanet, the Department of Religious Affairs, the Pope recalled that everyone is “obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights”, firmly condemning “violence which seeks religious justification”. Francis, who, earlier, expressed his wish that Jews, Muslims and Christians have “the same rights” and “same duties”, also denounced the tragic humanitarian situation of the regions of the Middle East, especially those torn apart by inhumane violence by the so-called Islamic State.

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