Pope Benedict XVI Completed his visit to Turkey

Ruzan Haruriunyan's picture

Pope Benedict XVI, in a parting message of goodwill to Muslims at the end of his first papal trip to a predominantly Muslim nation, said Friday that the Vatican wishes to "impose nothing on anyone."

The pope - celebrating Mass for members of Turkey's tiny Roman Catholic community a day after a stunning moment of prayer at a mosque - also repeated his call to end divisions among the world's Christians.

"You know well that the church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom," the Pope said at Istanbul's Holy Spirit Cathedral, where he was joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

The Pope has worked hard during the four-day trip to convince the Muslim world that he is interested in cooperation rather than confrontation, nearly three months after touching off worldwide fury for his remarks on violence and the Prophet Muhammad.

But Benedict also has made it clear he expects Islamic nations to improve rights and protections for Christian minorities, including the estimated 90,000 Christians in Turkey whose religious roots go back to biblical times.

"Your communities walk the humble path of daily companionship with those who do not share our faith," the Pope told the congregation filling the 160-year-old cathedral that contains the relics of a 1st century Christian martyr.

In the courtyard, the Pope released several white doves near a statue of the World War I-era pontiff that inspired his papal name, Benedict XV, which was erected by Turkey in honor of that Pope's work "as a benefactor of all people, regardless of nation or creed."

By Armenian Public Radio

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