Ian Traynor and
John Hooper

Istanbul: Pope Benedict XVI, who enraged the world's Muslims less than three months ago, on Thursday night stood in prayer alongside the grand mufti of Istanbul in one of Islam's greatest places of worship. He arrived in Turkey three days ago under a cloud of suspicion, accused of Islamophobia.

His actions were clearly aimed at healing the wounds opened by remarks the Pope quoted that depicted Islam as evil.

They were a striking demonstration of a point he had made repeatedly during his visit to Turkey that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

The pontiff was being guided through the fabled 17th century Blue Mosque when the grand mufti, Mustafa Cagrici, abruptly said: ``I am going to pray.''

In the most closely watched moment of the Pope's four-day visit, the pontiff then stood in deep contemplation, apparently praying silently long after his host had ended.

``This visit,'' he told the grand mufti as they emerged from the spectacular mosque, ``will help us to find together the means and paths of peace for the good of humanity.''

It was the first time that any Pope had prayed in a mosque with a Muslim cleric. The Pope's overture to Islam was the climax to a day on which he also sought to diminish the rancour that has divided western and eastern Christians for a thousand years.

The visit to the Blue Mosque was pencilled into the papal schedule at the last minute at the insistence of the Turks, but is likely to be recalled as the defining moment of the visit, the Pope's first to a Muslim country.

At St. George's, the Pope indirectly took a swipe at the Turkish state, which does not recognise the Roman Catholic minority. ``We urge all world leaders to respect religious freedom as a fundamental human right,'' he said.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006