Today in Catholic History – Pope John Paul II visits Umayyad Mosque

On 6 May 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit a mosque when he visited the Muslim holy site at which the tomb of St John the Baptist is also located.

At the mosque, the pope encouraged Christians and Muslims to work toward forgiveness. He also spent time in silent prayer. There was no joint Catholic/Muslim prayer at the mosque out of respect for Muslim concerns but Sheik Ahmad Kuftaro called the visit “a great day for Muslims around the world”.

Still, the visit was not without controversy. Syrian President Bashar Assad attempted to use the visit to obtain Vatican support against Israel. Also, because the site was formerly a Christian church there was some concern that the Pope might be seeking a return of Christian property. But the pope made no reference to the earlier church while he was at the mosque.

As we make our way through life towards our heavenly destiny, Christians feel the company of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; and Islam too pays tribute to Mary and hails her as “chosen above the women of the world” (Quran, III:42). The Virgin of Nazareth, the Lady of Saydnâya, has taught us that God protects the humble and “scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Lk 1:51). May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the One, Merciful God be praise and glory for ever. Amen – Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II’s address at the Umayyad Mosque

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