Home /

‘A Common Word’ in the News

Vatican Spokesman: Papal Trip Already Met 2 Goals

AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).-
Benedict XVI has reached the goals that were set for the first leg of
his weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land, says a Vatican spokesman.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office,
affirmed that the results of Part 1 of the Pope’s pilgrimage are thus
far “very positive.” The Holy Father arrived in Jordan on Friday
and is set to leave for Israel on Monday. During his time in Jordan, he
has visited Mount Nebo and Bethany beyond the Jordan River. He also
stopped at Jordan’s state mosque and addressed Muslim leaders there.
“The Pope has been able to celebrate all the meetings scheduled in the
program with great serenity, receiving a very warm and friendly
welcome, both on the part of the state authorities and the royal
family, and on the part of the Muslim world and the Catholic
community,” Father Lombardi said. “It seems to me very wise to
have begun this trip through a gate of peace, a gate of serenity,” he
reflected. “In this moment, in the setting of the Middle East, Jordan
is a country that is essentially serene, and therefore, the fact of
starting the voyage through the Middle East at this point, I think has
made the beginning of the trip be particularly positive.” Step forward with Muslims Father Lombardi highlighted Saturday’s stop at the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque.
“It seems that it’s becoming more and more normal for a pope, with a
friendly attitude, to enter a Muslim place of prayer,” he said. “This
is a sign of the advance in the positive relationship between
Christians and Muslims in these years.” Reflecting on the 2006
turmoil over Benedict XVI’s speech in Regensburg, Father Lombardi said
he believes the crisis in Christian-Muslim relations that sprung from
that misunderstanding has been resolved for some time now.
“Now then, as we know, when a misunderstanding arises about complex
issues, a whole series of steps and time is needed to completely heal
all the consequences,” he acknowledged. “And therefore, it is not
surprising if references to this difficult moment keep coming up.” “But we already have more than two years worth of positive experiences that began in that moment,” the spokesman affirmed.
He noted that Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal, a counselor to King
Abdullah II, did mention Regensburg in his welcoming speech at the
mosque, “but he clearly said that it is a chapter definitively left
behind, and afterward he greeted the Pope as the ‘Successor of Peter,’
something which on the lips of a representative of the Muslim world, is
a very significant greeting,” the Jesuit contended. Boost for Catholic minority
Father Lombardi said the other objective the Pope had for the Jordan
leg of the journey was to show support for the small Christian
community, which makes up only about 3% of Jordan’s more than 6 million
people. And only about half the Christians are Catholics.
“Another beautiful image” Benedict XVI will carry in his heart, the
spokesman stated, “is that of the warmth of the Christian community
that welcomes the Pope.” Father Lombardi offered the example
of those who greeted the Holy Father on Saturday for a celebration of
Vespers at the Greek-Melkite Cathedral of St. George. He said the
“enthusiasm of the welcome was impressive.” He continued: “[The
Catholic Church here] is a lively Church and has been able to
demonstrate this to the Pope not only with the welcome, the cordiality
and the intensity of the moments of prayer, but also with other
important circumstances. “In the Regina Pacis Center for
disabled youth, he has inaugurated a new section; in Madaba, he blessed
the cornerstone of a university — an initiative of huge importance not
only for Jordan but for the whole Middle East, where the development of
the contribution that the Church gives to culture will be highly
significant. “Then the placement of the cornerstones of two
churches — a Latin one and a Greek-Melkite one — in the zone of the
baptism of Christ shows growth in the places where the Church is.
“Certainly the fact that the Pope’s visit has been linked to these
beautiful circumstances says that it is a Church that feels alive and
looks to the future.” Looking ahead Upon arriving to
Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Father Lombardi said the Pope
is hoping that this visit “can be truly a message of peace,
reconciliation, and encouragement for the Christian communities that
find themselves in difficulties — a message of hope, of trust, of love
to give an effective contribution to improve the situation in the whole