Amman, Jordon, May 11, 2009 - May Christ “give you his courage”: that was Benedict XVI’s wish and mandate to the 20 thousand Catholics who filled the International Stadium of Amman for mass this morning which gave the Pope the opportunity to underline “prophetic chrism” of women, particularly in this region.
It is the only public mass to be celebrated by the Pope in this nation. Jordan – which conceded a holiday to Christians today – is in a certain way a oasis for the regions Christians, who count a little over 100 thousand, 2% of the entire population, but who are free to profess their faith, build churches and schools and now even universities. All around the situation is completely different: from tight control in Syria to violence in Iraq. And there are 70 thousand Christians among the 700,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan. They too were present at the mass, calling out loud in greeting to their Pope. Among the 200 children receiving their first Holy Communion today were 40 Iraqi boys and girls, some of whom received the sacrament from Benedict XVI.
I come, the Pope told them, “to encourage you to persevere in faith, hope and love, in fidelity to the ancient traditions and the distinguished history of Christian witness which you trace back to the age of the Apostles. The Catholic community here 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”. Already on the flight from Rome to Amman, Benedict XVI had told journalists that his visit aimed at encouraging Christians in the region to “find the courage, humility and patience to stay in these countries and offer their contribution for the future”.
“May the courage of Christ our shepherd – he added today - 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. 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. It also means bearing witness to the love which inspires us to “lay down” our lives in the service of others, and thus to counter ways of thinking which justify “taking” innocent lives.”. “Let us seek the intercession of Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace – he added in the Regina Caeli - for all the families of these lands, that they may truly be schools of prayer and schools of love. Let us ask the Mother of the Church to look down in mercy upon all the Christians of these lands, and with the help of her prayers, may they be truly one in the faith they profess and the witness they bear”.
During the prayers of the faithful, a prayer for the “long desired peace” in the Middle East, Palestine and Lebanon. In one side of the stadium is a group of Lebanese invites the Pope to come visit them. Palestinian flags can be seen here and there.
There were songs and chants in Arabic and Aramaic, and the great alter was decorated with images of Jesus, Mary, and John Baptist, patron saint of Jordan. The crowd paid close attention and was particularly careful to the proceedings within the stadium, the same place where in 200 John Paul II celebrated mass. Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, the king’s chief advisor on religious affairs was also present: one of the chief signatories of the Letter by 138 Muslim scholars and it was he who accompanied Benedict XVI during his visit to the “al-Hussein bin-Talal” Mosque in Amman. The Pope thanked him for his presence. During his address the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouuad Twal, also praised the stability offered by prolonged wise governance of the country and added that the Church in this land is witnessing a growth in vocations.
For the Church in the Holy Land this is the Year of the Family. Benedict XVI recalled this and spoke of the “strong Christian families of these lands” stressing the role of women in God’s plans. “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! 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, 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. Sadly, this God-given dignity and role of women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed. The Church, and society as a whole, has come to realize how urgently we need what the late Pope John Paul II called the “prophetic charism” of women (cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, 29) 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 defence 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.”.
Benedict XVI also spoke of the “prophetic charism of women” in his Regina Caeli address. The supreme example of womanly virtue is the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace. As we turn to her now, let us seek her maternal intercession for all the families of these lands, that they may truly be schools of prayer and schools of love”.
Vatican City, May 11, 2009 - As Pope Benedict XVI prepared to visit Israel in early May, Jewish leaders involved in dialogue appeared to be hopeful and not particularly wary about what the pope would say.
On the other hand, many members of the Jewish community and Catholics sensitive to their feelings appeared to be holding their breath, praying that the pope would not inadvertently offend his hosts.
Speaking in Rome in March, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the U.S.-born chief rabbi of Poland, said the Holy Land trip can be "very enlightening and help Pope Benedict show in a very clear way" the sensitivity and respect that has been clear in his writings for decades.
In evaluating the pope's work, Jewish leaders appreciate several facts: Pope Benedict explicitly recognizes that God chose the Jewish people as his own and established a special bond with them; he recognizes that for centuries Christians used Jesus' death as an excuse to denigrate -- and even persecute -- the Jews; and he understands that the contempt some Christians had for the Jews created an atmosphere that the Nazis easily and progressively manipulated to the point of killing 6 million Jews.
But theological work does not grab the headlines the way gestures do and a Vatican explanation of a papal misstep may limit the damage, but it is hard to eliminate all suspicion.
Those who are worried can't seem to shake their puzzlement over the fact that in January the pope lifted the excommunication of a bishop who minimized the Holocaust.
The Vatican later made it clear that Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the Society of St. Pius X, who had denied the extent of the Holocaust, must publicly recant his views if he wants to function as a bishop in the Catholic Church.
Writing to the world's bishops in March, Pope Benedict said he was saddened that people seemed to jump to the conclusion that he was stepping back from efforts to promote reconciliation between Catholics and Jews and was rejecting the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
"Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust," the pope wrote after emphasizing the horror of the Holocaust and the importance of remembering it.
The papal apology was effective with the church's Jewish dialogue partners because they were able to put the issue into the perspective of what they knew about the German-born pope's thinking, especially from what he had published as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa, told the pope, "We thank the Holy See for making this renewal (of dialogue) possible by the clear and unequivocal statements deploring the Holocaust denial and making it very clear that the Catholic Church leaders are committed" to continue working for improved relations with the Jews.
In his remarks to the rabbis, the pope reaffirmed in summary form his understanding of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that make respect, dialogue and reconciliation between Catholics and Jews possible.
"The church recognizes that the beginnings of her faith are found in the historical divine intervention in the life of the Jewish people and that here our unique relationship has its foundation," he said.
"The Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God," the pope said.
The teachings are the same as those meticulously spelled out by then-Cardinal Ratzinger during a speech to a major international Catholic-Jewish conference in Jerusalem in 1994.
The speech -- widely republished and included in Cardinal Ratzinger's book, "Many Religions, One Covenant" -- is such a clear synthesis of his thinking about Jews and Judaism that Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, included the full text in background materials for Vatican Radio reporters covering the trip.
The future pope began with an acknowledgment: "The history of the relationship between Israel and Christendom is drenched with blood and tears. It is a history of mistrust and hostility, but also -- praise be to God -- a history marked again and again by attempts at forgiveness, understanding and mutual acceptance."
The Holocaust, he said, was not simply a horror to be remembered, but it is a demand on humanity -- especially on believers in the one God -- to engage in a mission of reconciliation and mutual acceptance.
But respect for the Jewish people and their ongoing special relationship with God does not and cannot mean that the pope will not speak about the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ as he visits the land of the savior's birth, life, death and resurrection.
The pope is well aware, however, that for centuries Christians blamed the Jews, rather than human sinfulness, for Jesus' death and that attitude was at the root of the so-called "teaching of contempt."
It was a central topic in Cardinal Ratzinger's 1994 speech.
Even as a child growing up in Germany, he told his audience, "I could not understand how some people wanted to derive a condemnation of Jews from the death of Jesus because the following thought had penetrated my soul as something profoundly consoling: Jesus' blood raises no calls for retaliation, but calls all to reconciliation."
In the Bible, he said, "there are not two effects of the cross -- a damning one and a saving one -- but only a single effect, which is saving and reconciling."
Amman, Jordan, May 08, 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Jordan on the first leg of a Holy Land pilgrimage and praised the country's efforts to oppose conflict and violence between the West and the Islamic world.
At an airport welcoming ceremony in Amman May 8, the pope expressed his "deep respect for the Muslim community" and paid tribute to interfaith dialogue initiatives launched by Jordanian leaders.
"We can say that 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," he said in a speech.
He commended Jordan for curbing extremism and protecting the religious freedom of the country's Christian minority and said its leaders had promoted "a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam."
The 82-year-old pontiff appeared energetic, quickly descending from the plane on the first stop on an eight-day pilgrimage that was later to take him to Israel and Palestinian territories. His visit to Jordan was his first to an Arab country.
He was met at Queen Alia International Airport outside Amman by King Abdullah II of Jordan and Queen Rania, his wife. The king had announced he would break protocol to personally greet the pope at the airport and to send him off three days later.
After a cannon salute and the playing of the Vatican and Jordanian national anthems, the pope and king disappeared from public view for several minutes before entering a tent and giving their formal speeches.
King Abdullah told the pope that Muslims, Christians and Jews -- as "believers in the one God" -- have an obligation to love God and to love one another, commandments that are found in the holy books of all three faiths.
The king said that when Pope John Paul II visited in 2000 the pontiff had emphasized the importance of dialogue to promote respect among believers and peace in the world. Later events, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, proved that Pope John Paul was right, the king said.
"Voices of provocation, ambitious ideologies of division, threaten unspeakable suffering. We must reject such a course for our world's future. Here and now we must create a new and global dialogue, of understanding and good will," he said.
Jordan, a predominantly Muslim country, is considered a model for Christian-Muslim relations, and the members of the royal family have led the way in promoting interreligious dialogue.
The open letter that launched the Common Word initiative in 2007, a moderate Muslim dialogue effort, was written by Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, who was among the first to greet the pope at the airport.
Pope Benedict said he had come to Jordan as a pilgrim to visit Christian holy places, including Mount Nebo, from which Moses saw the Promised Land, and the Jordan River, where Christ was baptized.
He said the fact that he would bless foundation stones for new churches near the baptism site reflected well on Jordan's respect for religion and protection of religious rights.
"Religious freedom is, of course, a fundamental 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.
King Abdullah told the pope all Jordanian citizens -- Christians and Muslims -- are equal citizens under law and "all share in creating our country's future."
The king also prayed that the pope's visit would give new energy to efforts to promote peace throughout the Middle East, but especially in the Holy Land.
He spoke about creating a "neighborhood of peace, where every family can enjoy the blessings of safety, where no child will be held back by violence and destruction, where all communities will know the power of reconciliation, and where the Palestinian people will find an end to occupation and suffering and share, at last, in the rightful dignity of freedom."
Muslims make up about 92 percent of the Jordanian population; the Arab Christian community in Jordan, which has existed on this land since the time of Jesus, is estimated today at between 3 percent and 6 percent. Catholics in Jordan number about 109,000, according to the latest church statistics.
The pope praised the country's leaders for supporting efforts to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In late April, King Abdullah met with U.S. President Barack Obama and urged him to make decisive moves for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, warning that a new Middle East war could erupt if no real progress is made over the next 18 months.
The king met more recently with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to try to relaunch serious peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis based on a two-state solution.
The pope favorably noted Jordan's welcoming of refugees from Iraq. Jordan has absorbed an estimated 700,000 Iraqi refugees, including some 70,000 Christians, according to church sources. In addition, Jordan is home to 1.9 million Palestinian refugees who have been forced to leave their homes on land occupied by Israel since 1948.
Outside the airport, hundreds of schoolchildren cheered as the papal motorcade passed. Wearing kaffiyehs and papal-visit caps, they waved Vatican flags and held banners with various welcome messages written in Arabic.
After leaving the airport, the pope was to visit a church-run center for the disabled in Amman and later in the day make a courtesy visit to the king and queen at the royal palace.
While the official Jordanian welcome was warm and cordial, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, have criticized the pope's visit and insisted that he should apologize for his 2006 speech that linked Islam and violence.
Vatican City, April 29, 2009 – On the occasion of the close of the Year dedicated to the Apostle Saint Paul, which will take place simultaneously on June 29, 2009 in various “Pauline sites,” the Holy Father Benedict XVI appointed seven Cardinal s as his Special Envoys, for each of the celebrations. In the Holy Land, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; in Malta, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family; in Cyprus, Cardinal Renato R. Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; in Greece, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Emeritus Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; in Syria, Cardinal Antonio M. Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid; in Lebanon, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris.
Pope Benedict XVI canonized five new saints and said their dedication to the Eucharist, the poor and the world of work made them models for today's Christians in an era of economic crisis.
By orienting their lives to Christ, the five men and women showed that "it is possible to lay the foundations for construction of a society open to justice and solidarity, overcoming that economic and cultural imbalance that continues to exist in a great part of our planet," the pope said.
The pope celebrated the canonization Mass in St. Peter's Square April 26, joined by tens of thousands of pilgrims who held up photos or drawings of the saints. Four of the new saints were Italian and one was Portuguese.
Dressed in bright gold vestments, the 82-year-old pontiff listened as biographies of the five were read aloud, and then pronounced the canonization formula, drawing applause from the crowd. Afterward, relics of the new saints were brought to the altar.
In his homily, the pope said the saints' life stories hold valuable lessons for modern Christians. Each of the newly canonized had a special devotion to the Eucharist, and each transformed that spiritual power into social action, he said.
The five new saints are:
-- St. Arcangelo Tadini, a parish priest from the northern Italian area of Brescia, who preached strongly in defense of workers' rights during the industrialization period of the late 1800s. He organized an association to help factory workers, established a spinning mill to give young girls of the area gainful employment, and eventually founded a religious order of sisters who worked alongside women in the factories.
Pope Benedict said his Gospel-inspired social activity was "prophetic" and is particularly relevant in the current economic crisis. He said the saint taught people that a deep personal relationship with Christ is the key to bringing Christian values into the workplace.
-- St. Bernardo Tolomei, who, inspired by his love for prayer and for manual labor, founded a unique Benedict ine monastic movement in Italy in the 14th century. Born in Siena, he was forced by an onset of blindness to give up a public career, and he decided to found a small hermitic community. He later founded the monastery of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, and died in 1348 of the plague while helping victims of the disease; his burial place, in a common pit, has never been found.
The pope called him "an authentic martyr of charity" and said his service to others was an inspiration to all.
-- St. Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, a Portuguese army hero in the late 1300s, who, after the death of his wife, abandoned his military career and gave up his wealth to enter a Carmelite monastery. In particular he helped the poor, distributing food to the needy. He was totally dedicated to Marian prayer, and fasted in Mary's honor three days of the week.
The pope said he was happy to canonize a person whose faith grew while in the military, a context generally viewed as unfavorable to holiness. It demonstrates that the values and principles of the Gospel can be realized in any situation, especially when they are employed for the common good, he said.
-- St. Geltrude Comensoli, born in the mid-19th century in the Brescia area, who established a religious institute dedicated to the adoration of the Eucharist. In approving the institute in 1880, Pope Leo XIII asked her to include as part of its mission the education of young female factory workers.
Pope Benedict said this connection of contemplative charity with "lived charity" was particularly important "in a society that is lost and often wounded like our own." He said the saint's life shows that adoration takes precedence over acts of charity, because "from love for Christ died and resurrected, and truly present in the Eucharist, comes that evangelical charity that pushes us to consider all men as brothers."
-- St. Caterina Volpicelli, who founded a community of sisters centered on Eucharistic adoration and service to the poor, especially young orphans, in the slums of Naples in the mid-1800s.
The pope said she correctly saw that in order to bring the Gospel to bear on society it was necessary to "liberate God from the prisons in which man has confined him."
Banners depicting the newly canonized were hung on the faOade of St. Peter's Basilica, and fluttered in the breeze during the two-hour liturgy. At the end of the Mass, the pope greeted pilgrims in several languages and said he hoped the new saints would inspire people to witness the Gospel courageously in their daily lives.