This past week Pope Francis visited the Muslim holy city of Istanbul, a city whose own religious history is soaked in blood. The city, once called Constantinople, was one of the jewels in the crown of powerful Christian cities spread throughout Europe and the near East. The centerpiece of the Christian community there was the Hagia Sophia, or the Church of the Holy Wisdom. Built in the 6th century it was once the largest churches on Earth. However following the Muslim expansions which resulted from the Crusades, Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, the city renamed to Istanbul, and the Hagia Sophia converted into a Mosque.
The Pope visited the Hagia Sophia, now a museum, in order to be closer to this shared religious history. And in an act of religious tolerance and perhaps even pluralism, the Pope also visited the famed Blue Mosque and prayed with a local Muslim Cleric. The Pope condemned all forms of religious fanaticism, terrorism, and violence fought in the name of God. The Pope's words portrayed a belief that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God... a God who does not want bloodshed, but brotherhood.
Click Here to see a short video on the Pope's historic visit to Istanbul, Turkey.