‘We will pray and we will pray’: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis at Rome mosque
Pope Francis has invited Turkish President Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to pray together at the Vatican’s main mosque in the capital.
The Pope issued the invitation on Tuesday after meeting Erdogan in Rome, and he said it would be “the first time in the world that the pope and the King of Saudi Arabia have prayed together”.
“We will be praying together and we’ll pray with all the prayers we can, but I’ll also say that this is not the first time that the Pope has prayed with King Salman,” the Pope said during a private meeting with the king and his wife, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
“We hope that all the Muslim world will join us in praying together,” he said.
The two leaders were joined by the heads of other Gulf countries, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
“It is a welcome gesture by the pope in the face of all the difficulties faced by the Kingdom of Saudi,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a statement.
The Vatican also said on Tuesday that Pope Francis had met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday, and had also discussed the situation in Syria with him.
“On the occasion of his visit to the Vatican, the Pope invited the King and the Saudi Crown Prince to pray with him at St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday, June 14, 2017,” the Vatican said in an official statement.
“The Pope has also expressed his hope that the peace and the stability of the region will continue to prevail.”
“He also thanked President Sisi for his friendship in the name of all humanity and for his efforts to strengthen relations between the Muslim and Christian world,” it said.
A day earlier, Pope Francis and the president of the United States, Donald Trump, had discussed ways to resolve the Syrian crisis, the Vatican statement said.
Trump said in the Oval Office on Tuesday night that he had spoken to the Pope about the crisis.
The meeting comes a day after the Pope delivered a speech in which he called for a “reform of the international order” in Syria and called for the release of the imprisoned Syrian opposition leader, Walid al-Mughrabi.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has captured territory in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring countries.
The United States has carried out air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria since last month.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states have been among the countries which have joined the U.S.-led coalition in Syria.
The White House said on Monday that Trump would meet with King Abdullah on Wednesday.
Trump has spoken about his “deep respect” for the Saudi king.
“I want to thank Saudi Arabia, as you know, for their support, their leadership, and their incredible contribution,” Trump said in his first foreign trip as president.
“And to the king, thank you for all the support.
Thank you for what you have done to defeat ISIS.”
The Vatican’s statement said that Trump and the king would meet “in the context of a dialogue” about the peace process in Syria which is in its “third stage”.