.- Pope Benedict XVI told Jordanian leaders May 9 gathered at the Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque that both Muslims and Christians face the challenge ofcultivating human reason in the context of faith.
Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal delivered remarks prior to Pope Benedictâsspeech, noting that the midday event marked the first time in history a Popehas visited a new mosque.
The Popeâs 2006 Regensburg address, which became controversial because theHoly Father quoted a Byzantine emperorâs negative comments about Mohammed andIslam, served as a subtext to todayâs meeting.
Because that quote was interpreted by some as the personal views of PopeBenedict about Islam, some Muslims reacted violently.
The Pope later clarified that he was only using the quote to illustrate apoint, not to convey his beliefs about Islam. Prince Ghazi said at the May 9meeting that Muslims appreciated the Vaticanâs clarification.
After the warm and welcoming speech by the prince, Pope Benedict began his remarksby saying it was âa source of great joyâ to meet with the prince and the otherdistinguished persons present. He said the princeâs numerous inter-religiousand inter-cultural initiatives were appreciated by the people of Jordan and theinternational community.
âI know that these efforts receive the active support of other members ofthe Royal Family, as well as the nationâs government, and find ample resonancein the many initiatives of collaboration among Jordanians,â the Pope continued.âFor all this, I wish to express my own heartfelt admiration.â
The challenge for Muslims and Christians, he said, is to cultivate the âvastpotential of human reasonâ in the context of âfaith and truth.â
âChristians in fact describe God, among other ways, as creative Reason,which orders and guides the world. And God endows us with the capacity toparticipate in his reason and thus to act in accordance with what is good,â heexplained.
âMuslims worship God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has spoken tohumanity. And as believers in the one God, we know that human reason is itselfGodâs gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the lightof Godâs truth,â Pope Benedict stated.
âIn fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, itis far from weakened; rather, it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reachbeyond its own limitations.â
This practice âemboldensâ human reason and extends, rather than confining ormanipulating public debate, the Pope commented. Genuine adherence to religionprotects civil society from âthe excesses of the unbridled ego which tend toabsolutize the finite and eclipse the infinite.â It ensures that freedomaccompanies truth, and it âadorns culture with insights concerning all that istrue, good and beautiful.â
This understanding of reason reminds Christians and Muslims that humanrights hold equally for every man and woman, âirrespective of his or herreligious, social or ethnic group.â
âIn this regard, we must note that the right of religious freedom extendsbeyond the question of worship and includes the right â especially ofminorities â to fair access to the employment market and other spheres of civiclife,â he said.
He also addressed the idea that religions fail to build unity and harmonyand are an inherent cause of division whose place in the âpublic sphereâ mustbe minimized.
âCertainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between thefollowers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied. However,is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion,sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension anddivision, and at times even violence in society?â
In a situation where opponents of religion seek not only to silence it butto replace its voice with their own, âthe need for believers to be true totheir principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly,â he said.
âMuslims and Christians,
precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked bymisunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippersof God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almightyâs decrees,merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is trueand good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all humanpersons, who remain at the apex of Godâs creative design for the world and forhistory,â Pope Benedict insisted.
He then praised efforts made by Jordanâs leaders to ensure the public faceof religion reflects its âtrue nature.â
Benedict XVI pointed to his Friday visit to the Our Lady of Peace Center,where Christians and Muslims assist and educate disabled children, and alsoMadaba University, where Muslim and Christian adults are educated side by side.
These initiatives should prompt Christians and Muslims to deeply probe theâessential relationshipâ between God and his world, to ensure that societyâresonates in harmony with the divine order,â he stated.
Pope Benedict also acknowledged âin a special wayâ the presence of thePatriarch of Baghdad Emmanuel III Delly.
âThe international communityâs efforts to promote peace and reconciliation,together with those of the local leaders, must continue in order to bear fruitin the lives of Iraqis,â he said, expressing appreciation for those rebuildingIraq.
The Pope closed by saying he trusted his comments would create ârenewed hopefor the future.â
âMay reason, ennobled and humbled by the grandeur of Godâs truth, continueto shape the life and institutions of this nation, in order that families mayflourish and that all may live in peace, contributing to and drawing upon theculture that unifies this great Kingdom!â
At a press conference following Pope Benedictâs appearance at the mosque,Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi again addressed the controversy overthe 2006 Regensburg speech.
He stressed that the Pope has delivered many speeches of relevance toMuslim-Christian dialogue since the âmisunderstanding,â and said that those whowere able to receive the explanation now understand it, while those who donâtâwill not understand it.â
Dialogue between Muslims and the Vatican is âgoing on very well,â hereported.
Fr. Lombardi also responded to a question about whether Pope Benedict hadtaken off his shoes at the mosque, in accordance with Muslim custom.
He said the Pope had not removed his shoes because the organizers found away to avoid this situation by laying down a carpet from the mosque entrance tothe lecture hall.
âBut everyone was ready to take their shoes off,â he remarked.