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Pope Visits Jordan Mosque But Does not Pray or Remove Shoes

Prince Ghazi bin
Mohammed, (second left) gives Pope Benedict XVI a tour of king Hussein
bin Talal mosque, the biggest and newest in Amman, Jordan.

Pope Benedict visited a mosque on Saturday in another attempt to mend
fences with Islam after a 2006 speech caused offense, and urged
Christians and Muslims to jointly defend religion from political
manipulation. 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 criticized the pope in 2006 after he prayed toward Mecca
with the imam of a mosque in I.stanbul.

Speaking 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. “I 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 citation.

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 toward Muslims” since the 2006 speech
prompted outrage.Pope Benedict attends a meeting with a Muslim leaders
at the King Hussein bin Talal mosque.

Avoid manipulation

In 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

Sheikh 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

Common 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.

Earlier on Saturday, the pope retraced the steps of Moses, visiting
Mount Nebo where the Bible says the ancient prophet glimpsed the
Promised Land before dying. “Like Moses, we too have been called by
name, invited to undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery toward
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.” He 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.

The pope urged Jordan’s tiny Catholic community on Sunday to preserve
their ancient faith and traditions amid the turbulence of the Middle
East and work with other religions to enrich their daily lives.

Ebru News/Todays Zaman