"There will be no joint prayer," Ziyadeddin Ayyubi, director of the Fatwas Department and religious education of the Waqfs Ministry, told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

"The Holy Father will be welcomed at the door of the Umayyad mosque by the General Mufti of the Republic, Sheik Ahmed Kaftaro, and the Minister of the Waqfs," said Abdel Rauf Zyada. "Then he will go in his company to the interior of the mosque and will visit the tomb of the prophet Yahya, whom the Christians call St. John Baptist."

John Paul II will be the first Pope to enter a mosque, the day after he arrives in Damascus. On March 5, Greek Catholic Patriarchal Vicar Isidore Battika, head of the preparations committee for the papal visit to Syria, said that the visit would be an occasion for joint Islamic-Christian prayer.