.- Pope Benedict XVI stressed the "prophetic role" of women in God’s plans at a Sunday morning Mass with 20,000 people in Jordan’s International Stadium of Amman.
The liturgy was the only public Mass celebrated by the Pope during the Jordanian leg of his trip to the Middle East. The country’s King Abdullah II granted a holiday to the country’s 100,000 Christians for the occasion.
The Holy Father reminded Christians that the Church in the Holy Land – whose “strong families” he praised -- has dedicated this year to the family.
“How much the Church in these lands owes to the patient, loving and faithful witness of countless Christian mothers, religious sisters, teachers, doctors and nurses!” he exclaimed.
“How much your society owes to all those women who in different and at times courageous ways have devoted their lives to building peace and fostering love!”
“From the very first pages of the Bible,” he continued, “we see how man and woman, created in the image of God, are meant to complement one another as stewards of God’s gifts and partners in communicating his gift of life, both physical and spiritual, to our world.”
Pope Benedict lamented that this God-given dignity and the role of women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed.
“The Church, and society as a whole,” he said, “has come to realize how urgently we need what the late Pope John Paul II called the ‘prophetic charism’ of women as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace, bringing warmth and humanity to a world that all too often judges the value of a person by the cold criteria of usefulness and profit.”
“By its public witness of respect for women, and its defense of the innate dignity of every human person, the Church in the Holy Land can make an important contribution to the advancement of a culture of true humanity and the building of the civilization of love,” he explained.
The pontiff finished his homily by telling Catholics that he came to encourage them to persevere in faith, hope and love, in fidelity to the ancient traditions and the distinguished history of Christian witness that they trace back to the age of the Apostles.
“The Catholic community here,” he explained, “is deeply touched by the difficulties and uncertainties which affect all the people of the Middle East.
“May you never forget the great dignity which derives from your Christian heritage.”
“May the courage of Christ our shepherd,” he continued, “inspire and sustain you daily in your efforts to bear witness to the Christian faith and to maintain the Church’s presence in the changing social fabric of these ancient lands.”
The Pope added: “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: the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to enrich the fabric of society.”
He said that it also means bearing witness to the love which inspires us to lay down our lives in the service of others, and thus, countering ways of thinking which justify taking innocent lives.
Two hundred children received their first Holy Communion at the papal Mass, including 40 Iraqi children who are refugees in Jordan. Some of them received the sacrament from Benedict XVI himself.
In attendance at Sunday’s Mass was Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, the King of Jordan’s chief advisor on religious affairs and one of the chief signatories of an Oct. 2007 letter by 138 Muslim scholars aimed at sparking dialogue with Christians.