ISTANBUL (TheBlaze/AP) — With 1.5 billion followers behind them, two Christian leaders made a powerful show of on unity Sunday — and pleaded with the Islamic State to seek peace.
The heads of the Catholic and Orthodox churches have demanded an end to the violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East and called for dialogue with Muslims to work together to promote peace and justice in the region.
Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, issued a joint declaration Sunday at the end of Francis’ visit to Turkey during which the pope prayed in one of Istanbul’s most important mosques.
They wrote: “Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person.”
Condemning the violence of the Islamic State, Francis said the jihadist group was committing a “profoundly grave sin against God” as its militants force millions to flee their homes in Syria — some 2 million of whom, including thousands of Christians, have taken temporary refuge in Turkey.
The Catholic Church which Francis leads has roughly 1.2 billion adherents worldwide, while some 300 million Christians belong to Orthodox Christianity.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over differences on the primacy of the papacy, and there was a time when patriarchs had to kiss popes’ feet. At the end of a joint prayer service Saturday, Francis bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing, a remarkable display of papal deference to an Orthodox patriarch that underscored Francis’ hope to end the schism.
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