Turkey: Pope calls for dialogue among religious leaders
Pope Francis stressed on the importance of holding dialogue between leaders of different religions during his landmark visit to the Turkish capital Friday Anadolu Agency reported
The pontiff made the remarks during a press conference held jointly with the head of Turkey's religious affairs directorate, Mehmet Gormez.
"Dialogue between leaders of different religions is extremely important as it gives a clear message to all related communities and shows that mutual respect and friendship are possible despite differences," Pope Francis said.
He also touched upon the situation in the Middle East, especially the situation in Syria and Iraq.
"People are totally exposed to barbaric violence simply because of their religious and ethnic identity," the pontiff said.
He appreciated the Turkish people for extending a helping hand to all refugees. He added that it was a concrete example of how everyone could come together to serve other people.
"I wish to express my appreciation for everything that the Turkish people, Muslims and Christians, are doing to help thousands of peoples who are leaving their countries due to conflicts."
He condemned all forms of violence against people the world over.
Pope Francis also recalled Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey in 2006.
Gormez said a spiral of violence and cruelty has trampled humanity, especially in the Muslim geography and people whether they are Muslims or not suffering great pains in these geographies.
He also said that religion and religious institutions should never be allowed to be used as a tool of dirty politics.
"It is the common desire of all religions that people live in peace," he said.
"Thus, it is of vital importance that all religious entities are involved in an effort that accepts morality as a basic principle," he added.
After the press conference, the pope went to the Vatican Embassy in Ankara.
The pope is expected in Istanbul Saturday morning, where he will hold mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, and pay a visit to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
Pope Francis arrived in Ankara Friday afternoon to begin a three-day visit.
The 76-year-old Argentine pope is the fourth Supreme Pontiff to visit Turkey. Pope Paul VI visited the country in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
During his visit, the spiritual leader of the world's one billion Catholics visited the Anitkabir mausoleum, the gravesite of Turkey's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
He also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace.