04/23/2009, 00.00
JORDAN - VATICAN

Amman prepares to receive a pope for the third time

Samar Messayeh
In the first Arab country to be visited by Benedict XVI, newspaper articles, a book, websites dedicated to the papal pilgrimage. Expectations of expressions of support for the presence of Christians, the peace process, and the opening of new paths of interreligious dialogue.

Amman (AsiaNews) - Newspaper articles, a book, websites: in Jordan, interest and anticipation are high for the visit of Benedict XVI, who will arrive in Amman, the first stop on his visit to the Holy Land, on May 8, and will leave on the morning of the 11th. He will be the third pope to visit the country, after Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 2000.

It is well known that the main reason for the trip is religious, including a visit to the site of Jesus' baptism, on the Jordan, but also the blessing of the first stone for the Catholic university of Madaba, the church of the Baptism in Maghtas, and others. But there are many hopes among the peoples of the Middle East. In the first place, that he will support the presence of Christians in the region, then that he may be able to push the peace process forward, and, with the visit to the Al-Hussein Bin-Talal mosque (in the photo) and the encounter with Muslim and Jewish leaders, that he may open new paths of interreligious dialogue.

The book "Welcome and openness"
Fr. Rifa’at Bader, the spokesman for the visit, has published the book "Welcome and openness,"which illustrates the relations between the Vatican and Jordan. The intention is to explain to the people of Jordan the diplomatic situation at the Vatican, and introduce the topics that will be heard during the visit.
 
Interviews and articles
These are some of the topics that are being addressed during this period by the Jordanian media, which are informing and preparing public opinion: the website Bakra has interviewed Fr. Rifa’at Bader, the newspaper Alarab Alyawm has interviewed the coordinator of communications for the visit to the Holy Land, Wadia Abu Nassar, the newspaper Alghad has published an article entitled "The Supreme Pontiff will visit us" by Kamil Alazizat, which gives a heartfelt welcome on the part of all of the children of Jordan, Christian and Muslim, the newspaper Alrai has published an article entitled "The Christian churches: the pope's visit has religious and political importance" by Riham Fakhori, who presents the reaction to the visit from Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants.
 
The communications center
according to the Arab media, the pope's visit has great international importance, because Jordan is the first Arab country to be visited by Benedict XVI. In order to provide excellent coverage of the visit, a communications center has been created for the purpose, which will accommodate about a thousand journalists. It will be equipped with the latest technology, a hundred computers with internet access, handsets for live broadcasts. There will be simultaneous translations in French, Italian, and English.
 
The preparation of the International Stadium of Amman, where the pope will celebrate the Mass
One of the engineers has explained the preparation of the altar, which will be situated on a wide platform in order to accommodate about a hundred people, and will be 35 meters by 18. At the center will be the symbols of the twelve apostles. From the outside, it will look like one of our traditional churches, with depictions of symbolic significance: the central painting is a Good Shepherd - Jesus Christ, above the papal throne and the logo of the Vatican. On one side is a depiction of the Virgin Mary, daughter of this holy land and mother of the Church, and on the other is St. John the Baptist, the protector of our country, in which he lived and where he baptized Jesus, in the Jordan River.
In front of the altar will be a bouquet of flowers arranged in the shape of a dove, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, next to the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized. The altar will be surrounded by the flags of Jordan and of the Vatican, which will be united for the third time with an embrace of King Hussein and Paul VI, of King Abdullah II with John Paul II, and, next, with Benedict XVI.
 
Promoting tourism
We hope that the visit will help to promote tourism in Jordan, and consider this a real opportunity to promote religious tourism, especially on the part of Western pilgrims, who could put the country among the destinations in the Holy Land.
For the occasion, the Jordan Tourism Board has created a website dedicated to Benedict XVI's visit. The organization has made it known that the website is a multimedia project to commemorate this historic visit, and to provide information and news on the pope's pilgrimage and about the religions in the kingdom. The website also carries information about Benedict XVI and John Paul II.
The director general, Hamidi Nayef Al Fayez, has said that the new website was planned in order to welcome the pope to the cradle of civilization, adding that since the dawn of history Jordan has been the homeland of many civilizations that have left an inestimable cultural and historical heritage. Fayez added that "Jordan was the theater of many of the main historical events related to the three heavenly religions, and is the location of dozens of religious sites that tell the stories of prophets and saints and their followers." The new website is in six languages: Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, and can be visited at the address http://www.visitjordan.com, or directly at http://www.visitjordan.com/pope.
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