Pope prays "like a Muslim"

The pope, trying to mend fences with Muslims, is currently in Turkey. He met with senior Muslim leaders, and became only the second pope in history to visit a mosque.

While there, he offered a prayer, but what is notable is that he turned towards Mecca to do so.
Pope hailed for praying towards Mecca

One can respond in several ways to this:
1. It is meaningless, he could as well have faced the back door or the roof of the mosque.
2. It is just showing respect to those who were his hosts, it is a harmless observation of local custom.
3. God and Allah is the same thing, so it does not matter which one you obey.
4. He was not facing Mecca, he was facing Jerusalem.
5. It is recognition and obedience of a false god, and a grave sin.

Before we can get to the answer, one needs to know why Muslims turn to Mecca to pray. The instructions are straight from the Qur’an.
We have seen the turning of thy face to heaven (for guidance, O Muhammad). And now verily We shall make thee turn (in prayer) toward a qiblah which is dear to thee. So turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. Lo! Those who have received the Scripture know that (this revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.”

“And whencesoever thou comest forth (for prayer, O Muhammad) turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship. Lo! it is the Truth from thy Lord. Allah is not unaware of what ye do.”

Whencesoever thou comest forth turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship; and wheresoever ye may be (O Muslims) turn your faces toward it (when ye pray) so that men may have no argument against you, save such of them as do injustice – Fear them not, but fear Me! – and so that I may complete My grace upon you, and that ye may be guided.”

Whichever way one looks at it, the pope obeyed the Qur’an when he bowed to Mecca and prayed. What example does this set for the followers of the RC faith? His position as the leader of the church renders him the ultimate example of right and wrong for Catholics.

It has been interesting to see Catholics jump to assert all of points 1.-4. above. I have not seen a single one of them even considering #5. I have seen the pope praised for his “incredible gesture” to promote religious freedom. I have seen speculation that he was praying towards Jerusalem, and not Mecca (Where is that instruction in the Bible, by the way?). I have seen assertions that he was praying for “the conversion of Islam”.

The bottom line is that the pope obeyed an instruction in the Qur’an, whatever his motive was. It does not come as a surprise that he won’t find fault with facing in a specific direction whilst praying, seeing as he wrote a rather long essay on how Catholic churches should follow early Judaism and look to the east during prayer. That pretty much takes care of the “he was facing Jerusalem, not Mecca” argument. I quote:
“On the other hand, a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer.”

I cannot find any Scripture to support this notion. The pope refers to tradition, not to Scripture, in his essay. The closest I could find was that the temple in Jerusalem faced east, but that is a far cry from an instruction to turn east when one prays. In fact, Ezekiel says:
Eze 8:15 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these.”
Eze 8:16 And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the LORD. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east.
Eze 8:17 Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to their nose.
Eze 8:18 Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”

What we have are two pieces of un-Biblical behavior, the facing in a specific direction whilst praying, and the apparent obedience of Islam. For all of those who are defending the pope, I have one question: Please show where he told those he met with that they should convert to Christianity, in fulfillment of the great commission. If these actions are to be defended, the key issue is whether the kingdom of Christ was advanced through the pope’s actions or not.

The gladness of the muslims regarding his actions would imply not.

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8 responses to “Pope prays "like a Muslim"

  1. Oh Great! Now if the pope would just refer to God as Allah, maybe the Muslims won’t try to kill him during their Jihad.

    I wonder what the modern Ecumenical movement would say about this. I’m going to send out a few e-mails to find out.

  2. To pray like a Muslim he would have got on the floor and bent over with his bottom in the air, bobbing up and down and calling on the name of Allah. Did he do that? Or did he pray like a Pope, which in fact he is, and speak subvocally to our Father as he is quite accustomed?

    At least he did not kiss the Qur’an as did the previous Pope who also said that we share the same God of Abraham. This Pope is walking a tightrope when simply a quotation in a history lecture is misused against him resulting in more Muslim violence. His critics are all observors and maybe don’t have the full story on God’s plan inherent in the Pope’s visit. I prefer to uphold him in prayer instead.

  3. Judah, it was actually described by one of the Muslim clerics as the same as when a Muslim stands upright and prays.

  4. “Istanbul Grand Mufti Mustafa Cagrici, who prayed with him there, said Benedict had faced Mecca and stood like Muslims do when they pray aright.”

  5. How do we stand so differently? And how much would it matter? More importantly, did they know exactly to Whom he was praying? Does anyone know, other than the Pope and God Himself? And if that is the point, then maybe it was one of diplomacy rather than dhimmitude given the task he felt he was given.
    I’m just claiming not to know the “inside story” – that’s all.

  6. There has to come a point sooner or later where the all important differences are asserted between Islam and Christianity. I am not so certain when that point in time is to be. Maybe it is not while the Pope is standing in the blue mosque with a Grand Mufti – but I believe it will have to come before too much longer.

  7. Judah, you are right about the differences that need to be discussed. Please note that I did not say that the Pope prayed a Muslim prayer, but….according to the Roman Catholic cathechism, article 841, they see the Christian God and Allah is the same:
    “841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

    They do not say that it is a saving faith, only those who are part of the RC church can be saved if they have heard of Christ.

    However, if they view Allah and the Christian God as the same, it does not matter who the Pope addressed in his prayer. They are one and the same, according to RC teaching.

  8. August, I was aware of the CCC article claiming we share the same God of Abraham, but I had thought this Pope saw things a little differently. Perhaps it is too subtle to be acceptable, but this Pope has looked to be claiming that there could be one God – but one whom we describe differently. That is what I was seeing Benedict as claiming, keeping consistent with article 841 yet asserting a difference in understanding of Him. This seemed evident from his lecture at Regensburg when he described how Christianity’s view is that God is intrinsically linked to reason (the Greek concept of logos) and Islam´s view is that “God is absolutely transcendent.”

    As put very well by someone else here:
    Therefore, if a god counsels irrational violence, bloodlust, and some of the other elements of jihad, that god is not god, or man has made a mistake in understanding God. Pope Benedict has, it seems to us, drawn a line in the sand. Either men are wrong in their interpretation of God when they justify patently irrational violence as divine, or the god they worship is not god. This is a central question for Islam both as a religion and as a political ideology. The submission of man’s rationality to irrational, violent commands is incompatible with precisely those things that make the modern world modern, and, in the Pope’s opinion, incompatible with who God must be.

    But my latest thinking is that Pope Benedict seems to have been nobbled, reined in by both his RCC and wily Muslim clerics with the background threat of Islamic violence.

    He had seemed like one western leader who was speaking out, but too few came to stand with him and Islam has since won the round. That being so really upsets me.

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