.- 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 Benedict’sspeech, noting that the midday event marked the first time in history a Popehas visited a new mosque.
The Pope’s 2006 Regensburg address, which became controversial because theHoly Father quoted a Byzantine emperor’s negative comments about Mohammed andIslam, served as a subtext to today’s 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 Vatican’s clarification.
After the warm and welcoming speech by the prince, Pope Benedict began his remarksby saying it was “a source of great joy” to meet with the prince and the otherdistinguished persons present. He said the prince’s numerous inter-religiousand inter-cultural initiatives were appreciated by the people of Jordan and theinternational community.
“I know that these efforts receive the active support of other members ofthe Royal Family, as well as the nation’s government, and find ample resonancein the many initiatives of collaboration among Jordanians,” the Pope continued.“For all this, I wish to express my own heartfelt admiration.”
The challenge for Muslims and Christians, he said, is to cultivate the “vastpotential of human reason” in the context of “faith and truth.”
“Christians 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,” heexplained.
“Muslims 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 itselfGod’s gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the lightof God’s truth,” Pope Benedict stated.
“In 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.”
This practice “emboldens” human reason and extends, rather than confining ormanipulating public debate, the Pope commented. Genuine adherence to religionprotects civil society from “the excesses of the unbridled ego which tend toabsolutize the finite and eclipse the infinite.” It ensures that freedomaccompanies truth, and it “adorns culture with insights concerning all that istrue, good and beautiful.”
This understanding of reason reminds Christians and Muslims that humanrights hold equally for every man and woman, “irrespective of his or herreligious, social or ethnic group.”
“In this regard, we must note that the right of religious freedom extendsbeyond the question of worship and includes the right – especially ofminorities – to fair access to the employment market and other spheres of civiclife,” 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 “public sphere” mustbe minimized.
“Certainly, 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?”
In a situation where opponents of religion seek not only to silence it butto replace its voice with their own, “the need for believers to be true totheir principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly,” he said.
“Muslims 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 Almighty’s 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 God’s creative design for the world and forhistory,” Pope Benedict insisted.
He then praised efforts made by Jordan’s leaders to ensure the public faceof religion reflects its “true nature.”
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 the“essential relationship” between God and his world, to ensure that society“resonates in harmony with the divine order,” he stated.
Pope Benedict also acknowledged “in a special way” the presence of thePatriarch of Baghdad Emmanuel III Delly.
“The international community’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation,together with those of the local leaders, must continue in order to bear fruitin the lives of Iraqis,” he said, expressing appreciation for those rebuildingIraq.
The Pope closed by saying he trusted his comments would create “renewed hopefor the future.”
“May reason, ennobled and humbled by the grandeur of God’s 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!”
At a press conference following Pope Benedict’s 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 “misunderstanding,” and said that those whowere able to receive the explanation now understand it, while those who don’t“will not understand it.”
Dialogue between Muslims and the Vatican is “going on very well,” 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.
“But everyone was ready to take their shoes off,” he remarked.