.- Shepherd One touched down at Queen Alia airport on Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. as Pope Benedict XVI began his visit to the Holy Land. The Holy Father emphasized that he is coming as a pilgrim and that a downward spiral into violence is not the inevitable outcome for the region.
“Religious freedom is, of course, a fundamental human right, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of every man and woman will come to be increasingly affirmed and defended, not only throughout the Middle East, but in every part of the world,” he said.
The Pope also pointed out that his trip to Jordan gives him the “welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community.”
Referring to the “Amman Message,” a 2004 letter published by the king to defend the virtues of Islam, as well as the “Amman Interfaith Message,” Pope Benedict said “these worthy initiatives have achieved much good in furthering an alliance of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world, confounding the predictions of those who consider violence and conflict inevitable.”
Benedict XVI concluded his speech by saying that he hopes "very much that this visit, and indeed all the initiatives designed to foster good relations between Christians and Muslims, will help us to grow in love for the Almighty and Merciful God, and in fraternal love for one another.”
Speaking before the Pope's arrival, Bishop Selim Sayegh, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, told CNA that Jordan provides “a lesson for the whole Arab world,” since here, “Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for seven centuries.”
Ahead of the Pope's arrival, some Muslims spoke poorly of Benedict XVI's visit, but Bishop Sayegh explained that he believes that “deep inside they have respect for the visit.”
As he prepared to depart for the Our Lady of Peace Center for disabled children in Amman, Pope Benedict wished the king and queen a long life, and said, “May God bless Jordan!”
For the full text of the Pope's address, visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland09/resource.php?res_id=1133