Crowds greet Pope at Jordan Mass

May 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

Crowds greet Pope at Jordan Mass

Thousands of Jordanians have joined Pope Benedict XVI for an open-air Mass in a football stadium, on the third day of his Middle East tour.

The crowd, in the capital Amman, included hundreds of children waving flags of Jordan and the Vatican.

Jordan’s 200,000 Roman Catholics, and other Christians, were given a special holiday to enable them to attend.

But the BBC’s David Willey, travelling with the Pope, said the 20,000-seat stadium was not completely full.

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict

‘Courage of conviction’

Our correspondent says the situation for the dwindling Catholic minority in the Middle East has worsened considerably since the last Papal visit to Jordan nine years ago.

He says many Catholic families have emigrated.

During Mass, the Pope urged the congregation not to forget the “great dignity” that comes from their Christian heritage.

“Fidelity to your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church’s mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage,” he said.

“The courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition.”

Later the Pope will visit Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan – the site reputed to be where Jesus Christ was baptised.

The pontiff is also due to visit Israel and the West Bank on his eight-day tour.

Inter-faith controversies

So far, he has stressed the importance of Muslim and Christian communities working together.

In a speech on Saturday at the King Hussein mosque in Amman, he warned against the “ideological manipulation” of religion for political ends, which he said could act as a “catalyst for tension and division”.

The Pope’s visit is aimed at encouraging the minority Christian community in the Middle East, and creating a better dialogue with Muslims and Jews.

Pope Benedict upset Muslims in 2006 with a speech in which he quoted a medieval scholar who was critical of the Prophet Muhammad.

The pontiff also upset some Jews recently by rescinding the ex-communication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

POPE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  • Monday Arrives in Israel, meets President Shimon Peres
  • Tuesday Visits Western Wall, meets Chief Rabbis
  • Wednesday Visits Bethlehem, visits refugees, meets Mahmoud Abbas
  • Thursday Mass in Nazareth, talks with Benjamin Netanyahu, meets Franciscans
  • Friday Meets Orthodox Christian leaders, departs
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