The Pope in the Blue Mosque

The Pope in the Blue Mosque

With the Pope’s visit to Turkey over and with him now safely on his way home (thanks be to God), there are some rumblings about his visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and more specifically his praying there. News reports say that the Holy Father faced Mecca during the Islamic time for prayer.

So is this a big deal? I don’t think so. It’s not like the Holy Father joined in the prayers, nor did he make the perfunctory bows or any other of the ritualistic gestures. He simply stood in his place respectfully and prayed to himself. Was he facing Mecca? Okay, but why should that have significance? I’m sure at one time or another we’ve all faced in the direction of Mecca while praying. What matters is his intent and this is not a Pope who would intend a syncretistic view of religion.

I’ve seen charges of religious indifferentism and charges that for the leader to show deference to “infidels” is scandalous. Please. Such outrage is no different than that of the Islamists who burn in effigy anyone who dares to say a word that isn’t in obeisance to Islam and who get enraged beyond reason at the slightest offense. Extremism is extremism no matter who is doing it.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
12 comments
  • Seems to me this is an event that acquires most of its meaning from the lens through which one views it.

    If you view it through a fearful/defensive/paranoid lens (surf the blogosphere, you’ll find plenty of examples), it is capitulation, “political correctness,” fake nicey-nice, syncretism, etc.

    If you view it through the lens of confident trust in the Holy Spirit and in the ability of our very able pope, it is considered, deliberate, courteous, astute.

    If you view it through the lens of ultimate triumph, it is victorious, prophetic.

    If the latter is less clear, consider—wasn’t there a question some time back about an Imam visiting a Christian cathedral, and how awful that was? Well, which is it: is a leader of a religion coming to the turf of another a sign of strength or of weakness?

    Seems to me the very fact a priest entered a mosque represents an invasion of Christian sanctity—Christ himself has entered, in persona Christi capitis; in fact, not merely a priest, but a bishop, a successor to the Apostles; and not any successor, but Peter’s successor!

    Now, some won’t be happy unless he came tossing holy water around and making the sign of the cross. But I would say the pope’s very person—as bishop and as successor to Peter—is vastly more significant in bringing Christ into that mosque.

    Of course the Muslim triumphalists think they’ve won something, but they believe in Islamic eschatology, whereas we know the truth. Why should we see things through their lens?

  • St. Paul did it in Greece at the Aereopagus. See Acts 17:22-23:

        Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: 6 “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.
    23
      For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ 7 What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.

    Like Fr. Fox said, if you’re inclined to doubt the Pope, then you will doubt him. Likewise, see my post the other day about giving the benefit of the doubt.

  • Considering this Pope’s criticisms of the Assisi summit, it might be worth considering that perhaps the events at the Blue Mosque are not all that they appear. Again, why not give the man the benefit of the doubt, considering all that you know about him?

  • I wish he’d just make up his mind so I could decide whether I trust him or not.

    That’s the crux of so much, isn’t it? Is it his job to prove himself to you or is it our job to trust first?

    Which is the ultimate authority: Your own ability to apprehend complex truths or the Magisterium of the Church entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit?

    Truth may be black and white, but the world is not. You have to face the reality that as much as you think you have all the facts you can never be sure and so at some point you must have … faith.

    Faith is not surety, it is hope.

    Also if the Muslims misinterpreted the Pope as praying to Allah, who’s fault is that? He held his cross while praying to himself. He did not pray aloud, he did not bow, he make no devotional movements or gestures. At most he stood silently with everyone else and they all happened to be facing the same direction. You are assuming something you cannot know.

    The fact that you are so easily led to mistrust this Pope should give you pause and be an opportunity for self-examination.

  • I am with Carrie on this.  I think it was wrong for JP II to kiss the Koran and I don’t think it was a good thing for a Pope to turn to Mecca. The secular press went bananas over this saying the Pope prayed like a Muslim. Perceptions account for reality in many minds in today’s media culture.

    Can a Christian really acknowledge Mecca or the Koran for that matter as if these really were revelatory vehicles or of any consequence?
    Moreover Vatican II talked about reading the signs of the times.  Well we are living in times of rank indifferentism in matters of relgion and serious heterodoxy within the Church.  A Pope turning to Mecca has to be seen also in the context of the times in which we live.

  • But you make the assumption that “he turned toward Mecca.” It is just as likely he simply stood in place and prayed. Catholics do not stop to think which they are facing when praying, they just do so.  I think you’re being silly about this.

    In addition. the fact that he faced in a particular direction (if he in fact did) does not mean that he acknowledged Mecca as revelatory or of any consequence. Likewise JP2 kissing the Koran, as ill advised as it might have been, did not mean that he ascribed to it revelatory significance. More likely he was acknowledging it as the gift it was.

    It is others, with their own agendas, who impose these meanings on these events.

  • To Carrie:

    In fact, I would say one may, indeed, “pray in a mosque” as the holy father did:

    If a Catholic were invited to visit a mosque, he may accept; and if given a tour, no problem; taking off shoes is simply courteous; if the host says, do you want to pause for a moment of meditation, there’s no syncretism in pausing. You can pray a Hail Mary, Our Father, or simply remain silent and still.

    And, of course, wear a cross around your neck, as the holy father did.

  • “It is others with their own agendas who impose those meanings on these events.”

    I don’t think there’s any imposition of an agenda here. There’s a reason the Gospel book is kissed so that when the Koran is kissed by a Pope what’s the implication at least by gesture: I acknowledge and reverence the Koran as a sacred book with the same reverence as the book of the Gospels.

    This is one of the reasons the Church rejects Masonry. Masons say the Volume of the Sacred Law can be any book held to be holy because Masonry is the “sine qua non” of indifferentism: Bible, Koran, the Vedas are all the same hence you give them the same reverence mutatis mutandis.

    To be sure I don’t think the Pope intended indifferentism but things like Assisi and kissing the Koran and facing Mecca create an impression especially in a era when indifferentism is all over the place.  Again in our media saturated culture perception becomes the reality.

  • The First Commandment forbids having false gods before us.

    No, it says you may not worship false gods of idols. The Pope did not do this.

    Please.  The gesture is significant in Islam.  He was standing in a mosque with the Muslim world watching.  He was not ignorant of either fact.

    Did you even watch the video? He walked in, stopped in his place and prayed to himself (much longer than anyone else, I might add.) He did not stop and orient himself in a particular direction. You are straining credulity by insisting on this interpretation of events you clearly haven’t even seen for yourself.

    Something has changed.

    Yes, I’m thinking it’s your perceptions and nothing else.

  • If he stood there silently with his hands folded,like the Pope did, what’s the big deal? In fact, if he takes the Vatican Museum tour he can do it all day. Likewise in St. Peter’s or any other church in the world for that matter.

    Like it or not, you can’t stop people of other faiths from standing around in a public place and praying silently.

  • Since the Sistine Chapel is a Catholic chapel inside the Vatican I would think it was strange if he did not pray there.

    There is a vast difference between two people of different faiths praying together aloud in the same words and two people of different faiths praying silently to themselves in their own words.

    Sounds to me like you think non-Catholics should never be allowed to pray in the presence of Catholics and vice versa, even if such prayers are completely silent. This is just silly.

  • I didn’t say he should invite it. But there’s noting wrong with stopping for a moment of “meditation” as they specifically said in Istanbul. Who knows how the Presence of Christ in the Tabernacle can affect the heart of someone who is opening up that heart in a genuine if impaired act of seeking the Divine?

    And you can’t compare the Hindu activities in Fatima with the Pope’s prayer in the mosque since, once again, the Pope stood silently and prayed to himself. The Hindus engaged in the outward rituals and spoken prayers of another faith. That’s completely different.

    Face it, Carrie, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill imposing your own categories and interpretations on the event that the event itself does not support. We’re now going around in circles and so I’m afraid I’m going to have to end this conversation.

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