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Associated Press
Pope Francis, center, walks with Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, during an official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, May 25, 2014. May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Pope calls Muslims 'brothers' at Dome of the Rock

– Pope Francis on Monday urged his “brother” Muslims to never abuse God’s name through violence as he opened the third and final day of his Mideast pilgrimage with a visit to the Dome of the Rock, the iconic shrine located at the third-holiest spot in Islam.

Francis took off his shoes to step into the gold-topped dome, which enshrines the rock where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven.

The mosque complex, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, is at the heart of the territorial and religious disputes between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Speaking to the grand mufti of Jerusalem and other Muslim authorities, Francis deviated from his prepared remarks to refer not just to his “dear friends” but “dear brothers.”

“May we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters,” he said, and added, “May we learn to understand the suffering of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence!”

After the brief visit, Francis headed to the Western Wall, the only remains of the biblical Second Temple and the holiest place where Jews can pray.

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