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Syrian Muslim leader declines invitation to pray with Pope
    The leader of Syria's Muslims has announced there will be no prayers with Pope John Paul II when the Catholic leader visits the country in May.
    Catholic World News reports that Syrian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Kiftaro said there would be no joint Muslim-Christian prayers during the visit, speculation of which had caused some conservative Muslims to protest.
    "Reports that a joint Christian-Muslim prayer would be conducted at the Omayyad mosque are completely untrue. No decision or a ruling has been passed by the Mufti in this respect," said a statement from Kiftaro's office. "He expressed astonishment at the circulation of such inaccurate reports without his knowledge or approval."
    "Co-existence between Muslims and Christians does not require a joint prayer. It depends on a serious and principled action to support the causes of the oppressed in the world and to protect humanity from dangers surrounding it," Kiftaro said.
    Catholic Bishop Izdor Battikha had announced last week that the Pope will visit Omayyad mosque, the first such visit to a Muslim house of prayer by a pontiff, and deliver a speech. He said the Holy Father would not pray in the building but have "a quick silent glance at the tomb of John the Baptist located inside the mosque." Muslims also revere St. John as a prophet.