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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Pope denounces use of religion to shield ideological hate and violence

As he heads to what could be a sea of controversy in
Israel-Palestine, Pope Benedict XVI’s Middle East trip has been marked
by a strong message of reconciliation and affirmation of hard-pressed
historic Christian communities in the region.

In particular, he has addressed 40,000 Catholics in Jordan – who
rarely, if ever gather together – as well as visiting the Hashemite
Museum located next to the mosque in Amman.

The pontiff also met with Muslim religious leaders, the diplomatic
corps and rectors of Jordanian universities on an area near the mosque.

He addressed some remarks to Prince Ghazi bin Talal, one of the
signatories of the message ‘A Common Word between Us and You’ from 13
October 2007, sent by 138 Muslim scholars to the Pope and to other
global Christian leaders.

The Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, later replied to
the message in the Pope’s name. A delegation of Muslim leaders led by
Prince Ghazi was received by Benedict XVI in the Vatican on 6 November
last year.

The Pope addressed those who “assert that religion is necessarily a
cause of division in our world”. He acknowledged the problem. Yet, he
asked, “is it not also the case that often it is the ideological
manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the
real catalyst for tension and division and at times, even violence in

Muslims and Christians, he went on, must be “consistent in bearing
witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common
origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of
God’s creative design for the world and for history”.

The Pope praised what he called “the resolve of Jordanian educators
and religious and civic leaders to ensure that the public face of
religion reflects its true nature” and highlighted how collaboration
between Christians and Muslims in the country “sets an encouraging and
persuasive example for the region, and indeed the world, of the
positive, creative contribution which religion can and must make to
civic society”.

He also stressed the need for Christian and Muslims to embrace “the
challenge to cultivate for the good, in the context of faith and truth,
the vast potential of human reason. … As believers in the one God we
know that human reason is itself God’s gift and that it soars to its
highest plane when suffused with the light of God’s truth. In fact,
when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, it is
far from weakened; rather, it is strengthened to resist presumption and
to reach beyond its own limitations. In this way, human reason is
emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving [hu]mankind”.

“Thus”, the pontiff went on, “genuine adherence to religion – far
from narrowing our minds – widens the horizon of human understanding.
It protects civil society from the excesses of the unbridled ego which
tend to absolutise the finite and eclipse the infinite; it ensures that
freedom is exercised hand in hand with truth, and it adorns culture
with insights concerning all that is true, good and beautiful”.

He continued: “We are reminded that because it is our common human
dignity which gives rise to universal human rights, they hold equally
for every man and woman, irrespective of his or her religious, social
or ethnic group. In this regard, we must note that the right of
religious freedom extends beyond the question of worship and includes
the right – especially of minorities – to fair access to the employment
market and other spheres of civic life”.

The Pope indicated that the presence of His Beatitude Emmanuel III
Delly, patriarch of Baghdad, “brings to mind the people of neighbouring
Iraq many of whom have found welcome refuge here in Jordan. The
international community’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation,
together with those of the local leaders, must continue in order to
bear fruit in the lives of Iraqis.”

He concluded: “Once again, I urge diplomats and the international
community they represent, together with local political and religious
leaders, to do everything possible to ensure the ancient Christian
community of that noble land its fundamental right to peaceful
coexistence with their fellow citizens”.