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Pope Says Turkey Visit a Success


Pope Benedict urged Christians and Muslims to work together for peace during his general audience at the Vatican. He spoke to the faithful about his recent visit to Turkey. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

Addressing pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, Pope Benedict called his recent visit to Turkey a success. He said on his first day there he met civic representatives in Ankara and reminded them of the great need to rediscover God and of the importance of faith.

"In expressing my esteem for Islamic civilization, I urged Christians and Muslims to work together for peace, justice and life," the pope says.

The pope told pilgrims he then traveled to Ephesus and the sanctuary where, according to ancient tradition, the apostle John constructed a house for the Virgin Mary. Benedict said that during his mass there, prayers were said for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole world.

The pope said his trip to Turkey also had a significant unifying aspect for Christians.

"The feast of Saint Andrew was dedicated to consolidating fraternal relationships between the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople," the pope says. "In signing a joint declaration we re-affirmed our commitment to follow the path to full communion between Catholics and Orthodox."

The pope also said he held his last mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul for Christians of various denominations, who joined together in prayer.

"Full of gratitude and affection for the people of Turkey, I invite you all to pray that this country may enjoy a peaceful future as a bridge of friendship between the West and the East," the pope says.

While in Istanbul, the pope visited the Blue Mosque, becoming the second pope ever to enter a Muslim place of worship. During Wednesday's audience, the pope said that there he gathered in prayer for some minutes and turned to the only God, merciful father of the whole of humanity.

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