Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - "May we learn to understand the sufferings of others!". "work for peace and justice"; "may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters" and "May no one abuse the name of God through violence!": this was Pope Francis' heartfelt appeal to the Muslim community in his address, to the Grand Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein and the President of the Supreme Muslim Council.
The pope arrived at 8.15 am at the Dome of the Rock, the
third holiest site for Muslims (who venerate the rock from which Mohammed
ascended to heaven) and where Jews believe the sacrifice of Isaac took place.
The pontiff was greeted by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the Jordanian royal
family is the guardian of the holy places of Jerusalem.
In a small room near the Dome of the Rock, sipping coffee, the pope heard the speech of greeting from the Grand Mufti, full of overtures and in defense of the right to religious freedom for Muslims. For years, because of the Intifada , the Israeli police will not allow young males under the age of 50 to participate in the Friday prayer on the Temple Mount . In addition, Jewish extremists have protested several times on the esplanade claiming possession of the place for the Jewish community.
The Mufti strongly condemned the Israeli occupation : "Your Holiness - he said - there can be no peace as long as there the occupation continues". The Islamic leader also recalled that "from Gaza - believers cannot come to pray at this place which is the third holiest site in Islam". He has asked the pontiff , as an internationally recognized authority , to take an interest in the fate of more than "5000 prisoners still in Israeli jails". "We - he added - trust in the role you can play in favor of our people and the humanitarian and religious rights that have been signed by the international community".
His greeting was followed by a more moderate, but sorrowful
tones, of the President of the Supreme Muslim Council. He also recalled the
suffering of Palestinian communities, Muslim and Christian , under Israeli
occupation . Among other things, these days , Israel is considering cutting
off electricity supplies to the West Bank and East Jerusalem because of the
Palestinian Authority's enormous debt to the Israeli energy companies. The fear
of some military personalities is that this economic issue could lead to
frustration and violence.
Pope Francis then took the floor, addressing his "Muslims friends".
He focused his speech on the figure of Abraham. "Muslims,
Christians and Jews - he said - Muslims, Christians and Jews see in him,
albeit in different ways, a father in faith and a great example to be imitated.
He became a pilgrim, leaving his own people and his own house in order to
embark on that spiritual adventure to which God called him. A pilgrim is a
person who makes himself poor and sets forth on a journey. Pilgrims set out
intently toward a great and longed-for destination, and they live in the hope
of a promise received (cf. Heb 11:8-19)".
The attitude of Abraham should be "ours": "We can never think ourselves self-sufficient, masters of our own lives. We cannot be content with remaining withdrawn, secure in our convictions. Before the mystery of God we are all poor. We realize that we must constantly be prepared to go out from ourselves, docile to God's call and open to the future that he wishes to create for us".
"In our earthly pilgrimage" - he added. "We cross paths with other faithful; at times we share with them a stretch of the road and at other times we experience with them a moment of rest which refreshes us. Such is our meeting today, for which I am particularly grateful. It is a welcome and shared moment of rest, made possible by your hospitality, on the pilgrimage of our life and that of our communities. We are experiencing a fraternal dialogue and exchange which are able to restore us and offer us new strength to confront the common challenges before us".
"Nor can we forget that the pilgrimage of Abraham was also a summons to righteousness: God wanted him to witness his way of acting and to imitate him. We too wish to witness to God's working in the world, and so, precisely in this meeting, we hear deep within us his summons to work for peace and justice, to implore these gifts in prayer and to learn from on high mercy, magnanimity and compassion".
He concluded with an appeal: "Dear brothers, dear friends, from this holy place I make a heartfelt plea to all people and to all communities who look to Abraham: may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! May we learn to understand the sufferings of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence! May we work together for justice and peace! Salaam!".