Are Christians allowed to pray in mosques, as the Pope did in Istanbul? Or was that just a polite gesture?
Answer: We do not know what thoughts and words – quiet and unheard - were with the Pope as he prayed during his visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on 30 November 2006. In any case, Christians like Muslims distinguish between liturgical prayer from other informal forms of prayer, whether made individually or in community. Such informal prayers can be prayers of thanksgiving, praise or intercessions. I believe that on this particular occasion in Istanbul the Pope praised God from the heart of God, given the so awe-inspiring architecture of this mosque and the faith that it expresses. I believe that the Pope also gave thanks to God for the goodwill of his hosts and the devotion to God shown by so many Muslims and that, finally, he prayed to God, the creator, to strengthen goodwill between Muslims and Christians in their search for mutual understanding, and to awaken in the hearts of believers of both religions the purpose for their mutual responsibility for creating this world according to Gods holy will.
Every Christian should follow the Popes example and pray in this spirit, especially when visiting a mosque or visiting Muslims at prayer. On special occasions, the Christian can also stand or sit silently in the background as a witness to Muslim liturgical prayer. And, by the same token, Muslims can be present at the Christian liturgy – and join in with the prayers of their hosts praising and thanking God and asking for His intercession from the depths of their hearts. Christians and Muslims both pray to the same God. However, their faith does not say the same thing in every respect regarding this one God. Whereas Christians and Muslims are united in their belief in this one God, the different declarations about God made by the Muslim and Christian faiths give expression to the differences in Muslim and Christian teaching.