RELIGION

Pope Francis Wishes Muslim Community A Happy Eid

He also prayed for the hundreds who died in Mecca.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, left, archbishop of New York, rides with Pope Francis in the pope mobile, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 in
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, left, archbishop of New York, rides with Pope Francis in the pope mobile, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 in New York.

Pope Francis, in an unscripted moment during his address at St. Patrick's Cathedral Thursday night, wished Muslims a happy Eid and offered sympathy for the hundreds of pilgrims who died in a stampede in Mecca.

"I am thinking of them," the pontiff said. "I'm close to them in the face of the tragedy that they suffered in Mecca."

Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha, one of two feast festivals in the Islamic year and a time when many make the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. More than 700 pilgrims were killed on Thursday when a stampede broke out just outside the holy city.

Mecca has witnessed numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots over the years, but Thursday's tragedy was the worst to hit the hajj pilgrimage in 25 years.

Muslim activist Linda Sarsour said Francis's remarks demonstrated his welcoming attitude toward an often-maligned faith.

"Pope Francis epitomizes love and dignity for all," Sarsour told The Huffington Post. "While many leaders have turned their backs on Muslims and choose to vilify and ostracize our communities and our faith, the pope opens his heart to us and reminds the world of our shared humanity."

Sarsour will be among faith leaders participating in an interfaith prayer service with Pope Francis at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York on Friday. The pontiff will meet with relatives of those who died in the terrorist attacks and take part in a service with representatives from a wide range of faiths.

Also on HuffPost:

  • Goodbye Pope Francis!
    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day
    NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty Images
    Pope Francis looks out the window of his plane before departing Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 at the end of his six-day visit to the US. 
  • People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
    BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis.
  • A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
  • A family prays as they watch a Mass on a large screen.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family prays as they watch a Mass on a large screen.
  • A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A family watches a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia.
  • Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Catholic devotees sing as they watch Pope Francis' Mass.
  • Women pray as they watch the Mass.
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Women pray as they watch the Mass.
  •  A U.S. Army serviceman receives communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
    Pool via Getty Images
     A U.S. Army serviceman receives communion during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
  • Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (C) walks to receive communion.
    Pool via Getty Images
    Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (C) walks to receive communion.
  • Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 20
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Catholic devotees watch a Mass on a large screen with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
  • A woman does the sign of the cross as she take part in a Mass with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sep
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    A woman does the sign of the cross as she take part in a Mass with Pope Francis in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
  • People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September
    BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People pray during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis is in the United State for the last of 6 days during his first trip as the leader of the Catholic Church. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
    Jaweed Kaleem/The Huffington Post
    Priests offer the crowd communion at Mass along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27, 2015.
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in P
    Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis celebrates mass during the World Meeting of Families on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at B
    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis delivers the homily as he celebrates mass at the World Meeting of Families at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 27, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  • Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
  • Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsyl
    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Chalices for communion are set during a mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 2015. 
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets corrections officers during a visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Fa
    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Pope Francis greets corrections officers during a visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility September 27, 015 in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Pope Francis waves to the audience after speaking at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsy
    Drew Angerer via Getty Images
    Pope Francis waves to the audience after speaking at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, September 27, 2015 in Wynnewwod, Pennsylvania. After visiting Washington and New York City, Pope Francis concludes his tour of the U.S. with events in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
  • Pope Francis presents an image of Our Lady of Charity from Cuba to Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, at Saint Charl
    Drew Angerer via Getty Images
    Pope Francis presents an image of Our Lady of Charity from Cuba to Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.
  • Pope Francis met privately with survivors of sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday morning.&nbsp;<br><br>Re
    ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
    Pope Francis met privately with survivors of sexual abuse at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on Sunday morning. 

    Read more here.
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2
    Pool via Getty Images
    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pope Francis wraps up his trip to the United States with two days in Philadelphia, attending the Festival of Families and meeting with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. (Photo by Eric Thayer-Pool/Getty Images)
  • Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO
    VINCENZO PINTO via Getty Images
    Pope Francis arrives for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
CONVERSATIONS