05/09/2009, 00.00
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Pope wears shoes in mosque visit, as he was told to

A thick carpet was laid on the pavement for him to walk upon. Meeting in the evening with priests, religious and laity of the Oriental Catholic Churches, Benedict XVI encouraged them to witness their faith, even outside the Christian community. Parents’ concern for their children “troubled by the negative influences so pervasive in our globalized world, including the destructive elements within the entertainment industry”.

Amman (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI’s late morning visit to the “al-Hussein bin-Talal” mosque in  Amman, beyond being a gesture of openness towards Islam and an opportunity for the Pope to reiterate his lesson on faith and reason first explained in the 2006 Regensburg address, raised a series of questions among the worlds’ journalists following the papal visit. In a meeting with Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi, curiosity over the fact the Pope did not remove his shoes as he entered the mosque, predominated.  Fr. Lombardi explained that Benedict XVI was “ready to do it”, but he was told it wouldn’t be necessary, because the route of his visit was covered by a thick carpet.  So much so that neither did the Muslim official who accompanied him,  Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal, the king’s councillor for religious affairs, take off his shoes.


The meeting with Fr. Lombardi also resolved the issue of the Pope’s “prayer” at the mosque, as was the case during his 2006 visit to the Blue Mosque in Istabul.  The Pope, answered Lombardi, “does not pray” at mosques out of respect for Muslim faithful, but instead spends a moment in “reflection”, as he did today.


If the visit to Amman’s great mosque concluded a morning of intense appointments, the afternoon was decidedly festive, with a meeting with the priests, religious, seminarians and members of the ecclesial movements, in the Greek-Melikite Cathedral of St George in Amman.  There – along with the Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham, he was welcomed by the leaders of the other Catholic churches present in the East: Maronite, Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean and Latin.


“Most of you – the Pope told them - trace ancient links to the Patriarchate of Antioch, and your communities are thus rooted here in the Near East. And, just as two thousand years ago it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians, so also today, as small minorities in scattered communities across these lands, you too are recognized as followers of the Lord. The public face of your Christian faith is certainly not restricted to the spiritual solicitude you bear for one another and your people, essential though that is. Rather, your many works of universal charity extend to all Jordanians – Muslims and those of other religions – and also to the large numbers of refugees whom this Kingdom so generously welcomes”.


“This – he added - marks all your apostolic works, the variety and calibre of which are greatly appreciated. From kindergartens to places of higher education, from orphanages to homes for the elderly, from work with refugees to a music academy, medical clinics and hospitals, interreligious dialogue and cultural initiatives, your presence in this society is a marvellous sign of the hope that defines us as Christian. That hope reaches far beyond the confines of our own Christian communities. So often you find that the families of other religions, with whom you work and offer your service of universal charity, hold concerns and worries that cross religious and cultural boundaries. This is especially noticeable in regard to the hopes and aspirations of parents for their children. What parent or person of good will could not be troubled by the negative influences so pervasive in our globalized world, including the destructive elements within the entertainment industry which so callously exploit the innocence and sensibility of the vulnerable and the young? Yet, with your eyes firmly fixed on Christ, the light who dispels all evil, restores lost innocence, and humbles earthly pride, you will sustain a magnificent vision of hope for all those you meet and serve.”.


Finally he urged all those preparing for the priesthood and religious slife, and the young generations of Christians in this land to witness their faoth: “do not be afraid to make your own wise, measured and respectful contribution to the public life of the Kingdom. The authentic voice of faith will always bring integrity, justice, compassion and peace!”. (FP)


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