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“Build bridges”: Pope’s appeal

During his visit to Jordan, Pope Benedict visited
a mosque, taken a trip to biblical Mt Nebo while appealing to
Christians to “build bridges” with other religions and cultures and
also to give witness to “respect for women”.

After an early Saturday morning visit to Mount Nebo, a pilgrimage site
where one of the earliest churches in the Middle East was built
commemorating the prophet Moses, Pope Benedict laid the foundation
stone of a new Catholic run university which will be open to both
Muslims and Christians, the ABC reports.

The pope urged inter-faith reconciliation but disappointed Muslim
clerics by failing to offer a new apology for remarks seen as targeting
Islam, AFP says.

In a keynote address to Muslim leaders in Amman’s huge Al-Hussein
Mosque Pope Benedict bemoaned “ideological manipulation of religion”
and urged Muslims and Christians to unite as “worshippers of God”.

“Certainly, the
contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of
different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied,” the leader of
the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics told his audience.

“However, 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

Some Muslim clerics expressed disappointment however that the pontiff
in his wide ranging speech had made no new apology for a 2006 address
in which he quoted a medieval Christian emperor who criticised some
teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as “evil and inhuman.”

But Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, Jordanian King Abdullah II’s advisor on
religious affairs who hosted the pontiff during his visit to the
mosque, was more conciliatory.

“I would like to thank you for expressing regret over the lecture in
2006, which hurt the feelings of Muslims,” Ghazi told the pope.

Sunday, the Pope celebrated Mass with tens of thousands of worshippers
from the dwindling Christian churches of the Middle East, urging them
to maintain their presence in region, the UK Telegraph reports.

“The strong Christian families of these lands are a great legacy handed
down from earlier generations,” the pope told the crowd of about
30,000. “May the courage of Christ our shepherd inspire and sustain you
in your efforts…. to maintain the Church’s presence in the changing
social fabric of these ancient lands.”

Christians make up less than three percent of Jordan’s population,
which has been swelled by up to a million refugees from the war in Iraq
to between six and seven million in recent years.

Among the refugees are believed to be 40,000 of Iraq’s Christian population, mainly Chaldean Catholics.

Other Christian leaders present included Greek Othodox, Melkites,
Egyptian Copts, and Maronites, as well as Catholic groups who arrived
by the bus load from across Syria and Lebanon and well as Jordan

The Pope appealed to them to “build bridges” with other religions and
cultures, but he also appeared to continue a theme of attacking
extremism when he said they had a special responsibility to bear
witness to “respect for women”.


Pope visits Jordan’s biggest mosque (ABC News)

Pope disappoints Muslim leaders (AFP)

Pope Benedict XVI issues plea for Middle East Christians (UK Telegraph)