Home /

‘A Common Word’ in the News

Church has contributed and wants to contribute to peace in the Middle East, says Pope

In Amman, first stage in his trip to the Holy
Land, Benedict XVI talks about an “alliance of civilisations between
the West and the Muslim world”. He praises Jordan for respecting
religious freedom, encouraging dialogue and holding back extremism.

Amman (AsiaNews) – “Prayer,” shaping “people’s
conscience” and using “reason to help understand what is truly needed
for peace” are what the Catholic Church has contributed and wants to
contribute to the troubled Middle East, Benedict XVI said in the plane
that brought him to Amman, Jordan, on the first stage of his first trip
to the Holy Land.  Because the Church is not a
political power it can better understand what is needed for peace, he
explained. The Church did so in the past and can do so in the future.

Peace is the Middle East’s number one problem, if the number of questions journalists addressed to the Pope is any indication.

“We are not a political power but a spiritual force
and this spiritual force is a reality that can contribute to progress
in the peace process,” the Pontiff said. It can do so by relying on
three means. Indeed “as believers we are convinced that prayer is a
real force, it opens the world to God. We are convinced that God
listens and can affect history,” he explained. Secondly, “we can shape
people’s conscience, their capacity to understand the truth.” Finally,
we can use reason to help people understand what principles are true.

Expanding his reflection to include the dialogue
between religions, he said that Christians and Jews share the same
roots and scriptures, but 2,000 years of distinct traditions and
language have led to words having different meanings; inevitably this
can lead to misunderstandings.

Therefore, efforts must be made to understand the
other’s language, thus enhancing understanding, even making people
“love one another,” something that applies to Islam as well. In fact
Benedict XVI said he was the co-founder of a foundation whose purpose
is to promote dialogue between the three religions and publish their
respective holy texts.

On his arrival in the Jordanian capital, the Holy
Father spoke about peace, religious freedom and dialogue as well
“furthering an alliance of civilisations between the West and the
Muslim world”.

Welcomed by King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, the
Pope praised the Muslim country’s openness towards Catholics who are
allowed to build their own places of worship.

“Religious freedom is, of course, a fundamental
right, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that respect for the
inalienable rights and dignity of every man and woman will come to be
increasingly affirmed and defended, not only throughout the Middle
East, but in every part of the world,” he said.

In his address the Holt Father praised Jordan for its
role in the peace process, its respect for religious freedom and its
role “in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by

What better place for this than Queen Alia Airport
where Pope John Paul II was welcomed by King Abdullah himself on 20
March 2000 and where Pope Paul VI was welcomed by King Hussein, the
current monarch’s father, on 4 January 1964.

In mentioning “the pioneering efforts for peace in
the region made by the late King Hussein,” Benedict XVI drew a laud
applause. “May his commitment to the resolution of the region’s
conflicts continue to bear fruit in efforts to promote lasting peace
and true justice for all who live in the Middle East.”

King Hussein visited the Vatican several times. A
delegation from the Holy See attended the king’s funeral on 8 February
1999 and King Abdullah himself and Queen Rania took part in John Paul
II’s funeral on 8 April 2005.

On that occasion the Jordanian king paid tribute to
His Holiness for encouraging tolerance, dialogue and human rights
around the world, and bridging the gap between believers of various

“The Kingdom of Jordan has long been at the forefront
of initiatives to promote peace in the Middle East and throughout the
world, encouraging inter-religious dialogue, supporting efforts to find
a just solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, welcoming
refugees from neighbouring Iraq, and seeking to curb extremism,” said
the Pope.

Here too the reference is not accidental. Prince
Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, an adviser to King Abdullah, sponsored “A
Common Word Between Us and You”, a letter signed by 138 Muslim

“At one level,” the King said, “it is our simple,
shared humanity, which binds us in a world of interdependence. But, for
we who are believers in the One God, there is an even deeper basis for
understanding. That basis is the commandment expressed in the Holy
Scriptures of Muslim, Christian, and Jew: to love God, and love one’s

A good start for the dialogue the Pope wants to pursue in the coming days.