AMMAN (Reuters) – Pope Benedict visited a mosque on Saturday in
another attempt to mend fences with Islam after a 2006 speech caused
offence, and urged Christians and Muslims to jointly defend religion
from political manipulation.
at the modern King Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, he struck a note
of harmony and shared purpose between the world’s two largest
religions, continuing a main theme of his trip to the Middle East.
firmly believe Christians and Muslims can embrace (the task of
cooperation) particularly through our respective contributions to
learning and scholarship, and public service,” he told Islamic leaders
and diplomats at the mosque.
Addressing the pope, Prince Ghazi
bin Muhammad bin Talal, reminded the pope of the “hurt” Muslims around
the world felt in 2006 after Benedict quoted a Byzantine emperor who
said Islam was irrational and violent.
Ghazi, a cousin of
Jordanian King Abdullah, told the gathering the Muslim world
“appreciated” the Vatican’s clarification and accepted that the pope
was not expressing his own opinion at the time but making an historical
Ghazi, a leading figure in the “Common Word” group of
Muslim scholars promoting dialogue with Christians, praised the pope
for his “friendly gestures and kindly actions towards Muslims” since
the 2006 speech prompted outrage.
Vatican spokesman Father
Federico Lombardi said the pope did not remove his shoes or pray while
in the mosque, as he did during his first visit to a mosque in Turkey
in 2006, but rather paused for “a respectful moment of reflection”.
Lombardi said the pope did not remove his shoes as he was being shown around the mosque as his hosts did not ask him to.
Catholic conservatives criticised the pope in 2006 after he prayed towards Mecca with the Imam of a mosque in Istanbul.
one section of his address at the mosque, Benedict referred to God as
“merciful and compassionate”, using the formula Muslims use when
speaking of God.
Benedict said while no-one could deny a history
of tensions and divisions, Christians and Muslims should prevent “the
manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends”.
“That is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society”.
His overtures on this trip have not pleased all Muslims.
Hamza Mansour, a leading Islamist scholar and politician, told Reuters
the pope had “not sent any message to Muslims that expresses his
respect for Islam or its religious symbols starting with the Prophet”.
Word spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the pope’s speech would not erase the
Regensburg speech from popular memory in the Muslim world but noted
with approval that Benedict stressed in his speech that Muslims and
Christians worshipped the same God.
“That’s a long way from the Regensburg speech,” he said.
on Saturday, the pope retraced the steps of Moses, visiting Mount Nebo
where the Bible says the ancient prophet glimpsed the Promised Land
“Like Moses, we too have been called by name,
invited to undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery towards life
and freedom,” he said in the sixth-century Moses Memorial Church.
“His example reminds us that we too are part of the ageless pilgrimage of God’s people through history.”
also struck a note of Christian-Muslim understanding in Madaba, a town
near Mount Nebo, when he blessed the cornerstone of a new Catholic
university being built there with state help.
Benedict will stay in Jordan until Monday, when he moves on to Israel to start the most delicate part of his trip.
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