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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Pope wears shoes in mosque visit, as he was told to

A thick carpet was laid on the pavement for
him to walk upon. Meeting in the evening with priests, religious and
laity of the Oriental Catholic Churches, Benedict XVI encouraged them
to witness their faith, even outside the Christian community. Parents’
concern for their children “troubled by the negative influences so
pervasive in our globalized world, including the destructive elements
within the entertainment industry”.

Amman (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI’s late morning visit to the “al-Hussein bin-Talal” mosque in  Amman,
beyond being a gesture of openness towards Islam and an opportunity for
the Pope to reiterate his lesson on faith and reason first explained in
the 2006 Regensburg address, raised a series of questions among the
worlds’ journalists following the papal visit. In a meeting with
Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi, curiosity over
the fact the Pope did not remove his shoes as he entered the mosque,
predominated.  Fr. Lombardi explained that
Benedict XVI was “ready to do it”, but he was told it wouldn’t be
necessary, because the route of his visit was covered by a thick
carpet.  So much so that neither did the Muslim official who accompanied him,  Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal, the king’s councillor for religious affairs, take off his shoes.

The meeting with Fr. Lombardi also resolved the issue
of the Pope’s “prayer” at the mosque, as was the case during his 2006
visit to the Blue Mosque in Istabul.  The Pope,
answered Lombardi, “does not pray” at mosques out of respect for Muslim
faithful, but instead spends a moment in “reflection”, as he did today.

If the visit to Amman’s great mosque concluded a
morning of intense appointments, the afternoon was decidedly festive,
with a meeting with the priests, religious, seminarians and members of
the ecclesial movements, in the Greek-Melikite Cathedral of St George
in Amman.  There – along with the Greek-Melkite
Patriarch Gregory III Laham, he was welcomed by the leaders of the
other Catholic churches present in the East: Maronite, Assyrian,
Armenian, Chaldean and Latin.

“Most of you – the Pope told them – trace ancient
links to the Patriarchate of Antioch, and your communities are thus
rooted here in the Near East. And, just as two thousand years ago it
was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, so also
today, as small minorities in scattered communities across these lands,
you too are recognized as followers of the Lord. The public face of
your Christian faith is certainly not restricted to the spiritual
solicitude you bear for one another and your people, essential though
that is. Rather, your many works of universal charity extend to all
Jordanians – Muslims and those of other religions – and also to the
large numbers of refugees whom this Kingdom so generously welcomes”.

“This – he added – marks all your apostolic works,
the variety and calibre of which are greatly appreciated. From
kindergartens to places of higher education, from orphanages to homes
for the elderly, from work with refugees to a music academy, medical
clinics and hospitals, interreligious dialogue and cultural
initiatives, your presence in this society is a marvellous sign of the
hope that defines us as Christian. That hope reaches far beyond the
confines of our own Christian communities. So often you find that the
families of other religions, with whom you work and offer your service
of universal charity, hold concerns and worries that cross religious
and cultural boundaries. This is especially noticeable in regard to the
hopes and aspirations of parents for their children. What parent or
person of good will could not be troubled by the negative influences so
pervasive in our globalized world, including the destructive elements
within the entertainment industry which so callously exploit the
innocence and sensibility of the vulnerable and the young? Yet, with
your eyes firmly fixed on Christ, the light who dispels all evil,
restores lost innocence, and humbles earthly pride, you will sustain a
magnificent vision of hope for all those you meet and serve.”.

Finally he urged all those preparing for the
priesthood and religious slife, and the young generations of Christians
in this land to witness their faoth: “do not be afraid to make your own
wise, measured and respectful contribution to the public life of the
Kingdom. The authentic voice of faith will always bring integrity,
justice, compassion and peace!”. (FP)