stanbul, May 2012

In an unprecedented ceremony beneath Sinan’s majestic dome in the Süleymaniye Mosque at the heart of Istanbul, and a stone’s throw from the tomb of the Conqueror, representatives of world-wide Islam joined today in a public apology to Orthodox Christians for the sack of the city. Led by the Grand Mufti of Damascus and the Ayatollah Sheikyemani, the leaders of the Muslim world expressed regret for the centuries of Muslim aggression which had blighted the lives of so many Christians in the Middle East and the Balkans. Inspired by the apology for the Crusades made by Pope John Paul II, and the meeting of religious leaders at Assisi in 2002, the leaders exchanged embraces with Orthodox clergy from across the word Then Patriach Bartholomew led a procession of dignitaries out of the mosque and through the streets of a jubilant city to the great church of Hagia Sophia, where the mayor of Istanbul, representatives of the Ankara government, the President of Egypt and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority greeted the assembled bishops. Inside a Eucharist was celebrated for the first time since Mehmet II rode through its bronze doors on 29 May 1453.Taxi drivers sounded their horns at Eminoiu, ships in the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara sounded their hooters. In Rome the Holy Father attended a Mass in St Peter’s Square (when the creed was sung without the filioque) with a special intention for peace in the Middle East. In Washington President Hillary Clinton gave a press conference in which she pledged to continue the war on terror until final victory was achieved.