05/24/2014, 00.00
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Pope in Jordan: "A country committed to peace", that "respects religious freedom "

Arriving in Amman, Pope Francis stresses the welcome that the country offers many refugees , including those of Syria, " ravaged by a conflict which has lasted all too long". He acknowledges “with deep regret the continuing grave tensions in the Middle East”. "An affectionate greeting to the Christian communities present in this country since apostolic times, contributing to the common good of the society of which they are fully a part."

Amman (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis is in Amman, the first leg of his "strictly religious" journey, as he himself said to the Holy Land. The Pope spoke of  the nations' "generous welcome to great numbers of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, as well as to other refugees from troubled areas, particularly neighboring Syria, ravaged by a conflict which has lasted all too long" its commitment "in search of the desired lasting peace for the whole region" and "respect for religious freedom".

Having left Rome at 8:20, Pope Francis arrived in Jordan at 13 am local time. "It will be a very challenging, even for you", he said on the plane, greeting the reporters accompanying him.

At the airport, on a warm and sunny day, he was received (see photo) by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad , who is the author and one of the signatories of the document "A Common Word Between Us and You" in 2007, a significant effort in dialogue between Muslims and Christians, and who also welcomed Benedict XVI and accompanied him on a visit to the King Hussein mosque

The Pope was also greeted by groups of faithful, gathered along the road leading to the royal palace, where a welcome ceremony was held and a meeting with the country's authorities.

After a brief meeting with King Abdullah and his family, Pope Francis had the first appointment of this trip. In the words addressed to an estimated 300 people drawn from the highest offices of the kingdom, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of the major religions in the Great Hall of the Royal Palace, Pope Francis emphasized his " profound respect and esteem" for the welcome that the country gives to many refugees which "merits the appreciation and support of the international community".  He added "the Catholic Church, to the extent of its abilities, has sought to provide assistance to refugees and those in need, especially through Caritas Jordan".

"While acknowledging with deep regret the continuing grave tensions in the Middle East - he continued -  I thank the authorities of the Kingdom for all that they are doing and I encourage them to persevere in their efforts to seek lasting peace for the entire region.  This great goal urgently requires that a peaceful solution be found to the crisis in Syria, as well as a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

"I take this opportunity to reiterate my profound respect and esteem for the Muslim community and my appreciation for the leadership of His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of the virtues taught by Islam and a climate of serene coexistence between the faithful of the different religions.  I am grateful that Jordan has supported a number of important initiatives aimed at advancing interreligious dialogue and understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims.  I think in particular of the Amman Message and the support given within the United Nations Organization to the annual celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week".

"I would also like to offer an affectionate greeting to the Christian communities present in this country since apostolic times, contributing to the common good of the society of which they are fully a part.  Although Christians today are numerically a minority, theirs is a significant and valued presence in the fields of education and health care, thanks to their schools and hospitals.  They are able to profess their faith peaceably, in a climate of respect for religious freedom.  Religious freedom is in fact a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world.  The right to religious freedom "includes on the individual and collective levels the freedom to follow one's conscience in religious matters and, at the same time, freedom of worship... [it also includes] the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one's beliefs in public" (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 26).  Christians consider themselves, and indeed are, full citizens, and as such they seek, together with their Muslim fellow citizens, to make their own particular contribution to the society in which they live. Finally, I cordially invoke peace and prosperity upon the Kingdom of Jordan and its people. I pray that my visit will help to advance and strengthen good and cordial relations between Christians and Muslims. And may God guard us against fear of change".


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