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Holy Father addresses inter-religious dialogue, decline of Christians in Holy Land with reporters

.- On Friday, during Pope Benedict’s flight from Rome to Amman, Jordan, he briefly answered questions from journalists accompanying him on his journey on the topics of peace in the Holy Land, inter-religious dialogue and the decline of Christians in the region.

The first question the Holy Father was asked had to do with bringing peace to the Middle East.  The journalist asked:  “There are strong tensions - during the Gaza crisis it was speculated that you would not make this visit. At the same time, a few days after your trip, the political leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will meet with U.S. President Obama. Do you think that you can contribute to the peace process that currently seems to be running aground?"

The Pope answered that he intends to contribute to peace, “not as an individual, but in the name of the Catholic Church, of the Holy See. We are not a political power, but rather a spiritual force, and this spiritual force is a reality that can contribute to the progress of the peace process.”

He noted that the contribution will be made on three levels.  First, we must realize that prayer makes a true difference.  “It opens the world to God. We are convinced that God listens and that He can act in history. I think that if millions of people - of believers - pray, this really is an influential power that can contribute to the advancement of peace.”

“Secondly, we try to help in the formation of consciences,” he explained.  And finally, we must “speak to reason” and support “truly reasonable positions.”

The Pope was then asked about Christian-Jewish dialogue.  "As a theologian, you have reflected in particular on the shared roots that unite Christians and Jews. How is it possible that, despite the efforts of dialogue, misunderstandings often occur? How do you see the future of dialogue between the two communities?"

Benedict XVI answered, that the important thing is that both religious have the same roots, even though misunderstandings arise.  He explained that we must “do everything to learn one another's language, and it seems to me that we are making great progress. Today it is possible for young people, the future professors of theology, to study in Jerusalem, in the Hebrew University; and the Jews have academic contact with us. Thus these ‘semantic universes’ meet. We learn from one another and we progress along the path of true dialogue. We learn from each other and I am convinced we are making progress. This will also help peace, and what is more, reciprocal love."

The final question acknowledged the decline of Christians in the Holy Land.  “What can be done to help Christians in the region? What contribution do you hope to make with your trip? Is there hope for these Christians in the future? Do you have a particular message for the Christians of Gaza who will come to see you in Bethlehem?"

The Pope stated that there is hope for these Christians.  “They are important components of life in these regions. In concrete terms the Church, beyond her words of encouragement, has schools and hospitals. In this sense we have a very concrete presence. Our schools form a generation that will have the possibility to be present in public life. We are creating the Catholic University in Jordan, and I feel this offers great prospects for young people - both Muslims and Christians - to meet and learn together, for forming a Christian elite specifically prepared to work for peace.”

“Furthermore,” he continued, “there are many Christian associations that help Christians in various ways, and with specific help they encourage them to stay. In this way I hope that Christians are able to find the value, the humility, the patience to stay in these countries, to offer their contribution to the future of these countries."


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