VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis heads to Turkey on Friday with a brief to use his populist touch to rebuild bridges with the Islamic world that were damaged by his predecessor Benedict XVI.
It will be the first papal visit to Turkey since the now-retired Benedict went there in 2006 against a backrop of anger in much of the Muslim world over comments which appeared to link the Prophet Mohamed to violence.
The frenzied atmosphere which dominated the run-up to that trip was followed by Benedict appearing to pray silently alongside the Grand Mufti of Istanbul in the city’s celebrated Blue Mosque in what was seen as a gesture of reconciliation.
The Pope’s spokesperson, Federico Lombardi, said Francis may make a similar gesture of respect.
“Obviously one can’t speak of a formal prayer on the part of a Christian in the Mosque,” Lombardi said.