May 9 (Bloomberg) — Pope Benedict XVI visited a mosque and
celebrated Mass in Jordan during a weeklong trip to the Middle
East aimed at easing the Vatican’s ties with Muslims and Jews.
The pontiff toured the King Hussein Bin Talal Mosque, which
occupies 60,000 square meters (197,000 square feet) and serves
6,000 worshippers, after viewing Mount Nebo, a hilltop with
religious significance to Christians, Jews and Muslims on his
second day in Jordan. He later celebrated Mass in the Greek-
Melkite Cathedral of Saint-Georges in Amman.
“Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden
of our common history, so often marked by misunderstanding, must
today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God’s
faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the almighty’s
decrees,” the pope said at the mosque.
A member of Jordan’s royal family thanked the pontiff for
expressing “regret” for comments he made at Germany’s
University of Regensburg in 2006. The Pope had cited a 14th-
century text saying that the Prophet Mohammed brought things
that were “evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by
the sword the faith he preached.”
“I thank your Holiness for the ‘regret’ you expressed
after the Regensburg lecture, for the hurt caused by this
lecture to Muslims,” Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, a
cousin of Jordan’s King Abdullah, said in a speech at the Amman
mosque. “Muslims also especially appreciate the clarification
by the Vatican that what was said in the lecture did not reflect
your Holiness’s own opinion but rather was simply a citation in
an academic lecture.”
The pope’s statement didn’t go far enough for some critics.
The Islamic Action Front, a bloc affiliated with the Muslim
Brotherhood, had said the pope was “not welcome” in Jordan
because he hasn’t apologized for comments linking Islam and the
Prophet Muhammad to violence.
“The apology did not take place and neither did the
affirmation of respect for the Prophet Muhammad or for Islamic
values,” Sheikh Hamza Mansour, a leading Islamist scholar and
member of the Front’s bloc in Jordan’s parliament, said in an
interview today with Bloomberg News. “His clarification of his
past comments has not been convincing.”
During the rest of his trip, the Pope will visit the site
renowned as the scene of Jesus’s baptism on the Jordan River,
celebrate masses in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem and meet
with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President
Bishop, Latin Liturgy
The Vatican canceled the pope’s planned meeting with an
Israeli Arab mayor after the country’s tourism minister accused
the mayor of promoting terrorism.
In the four years since he was chosen pope, Benedict has
also angered Jews by promising to lift the excommunication of a
bishop who denies the Holocaust took place and allowing priests
to carry out a Latin liturgy that includes a prayer calling for
the conversion of Jews.
The pope has made overtures to both Jews and Muslims,
including a 2006 visit to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland and
a 2005 tour of the Cologne synagogue destroyed in the
Kristallnacht, the coordinated 1938 attack on Jews in Germany.
In 2006, he became the first pope to turn toward the holy city
of Mecca, while praying alongside Mufti Mustafa Cagrici in