.- Shouts of “Viva il Papa” and “Benedetto” echoed through the Greek Melkite Cathedral of St. George as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated vespers and challenged Eastern Catholics to resolutely testify to the faith.
The hour and 30 minute celebration involved a procession with the Gospel, signing in Arabic by a 50-person choir, the gifting of an icon of Sts. Peter and Paul to the Pope, and a speech by the Holy Father.
In his speech, Pope Benedict encouraged the Church in the Middle East to persist in giving witness to the saving power of Jesus, despite the hardships they are suffering in several countries. The presence of Iraqi and other Middle Eastern Christians who fled persecution in their home countries was evidenced by the flags they waved to greet the Pope.
The Holy Father reminded those gathered in the cathedral that “(a)ll Christians are called to respond actively to the Lord’s mandate – as Saint George did in dramatic ways, according to popular record – to bring others to know and love him.
“In fact, the vicissitudes of history have strengthened the members of particular Churches to embrace this task with vigor and to engage resolutely with the pastoral realities of today,” he said.
As Pope Benedict exited the cathedral, the faithful swarmed to the center isle, once again wishing him a long life and chanting his name in Italian.
On Sunday, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Amman's International Stadium for tens of thousands people. Later in the day, the pontiff will visit the site where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.