PAPA DIXIT:Pope’s words at mosque, Moses mount, Madaba
Pope Benedict’s long-awaited address to Muslims at the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque topped the day’s list of speeches. It dominated our news coverage today. He also spoke at Mount Nebo, where the Bible says Moses glimpsed the Promised Land before dying, and at a ceremony to bless the cornerstone of a Catholic university being built in Madaba. The mosque and Madaba speeches were classic Ratzinger, with some of his trademark theological and philosophical arguments. If he had delivered the mosque speech at Regensburg, there might never have been a “Regensburg.” Benedict ended the day with a short sermon at vespers in the Greek-Melkite Cathedral of Saint George.
(Photo: Pope Benedict and Prince Ghazi tour the mosque, 9 May 2009/Tony Gentile)
Here are excerpts from today’s speeches.
THE MOSQUE SPEECH
UNITE TO DEFEND RELIGION: “We cannot fail to be concerned that today, with increasing insistency, some maintain that religion fails in its claim to be, by nature, a builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God. Indeed some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world; and so they argue that the less attention given to religion in the public sphere the better. Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers 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 and division, and at times even violence in society? In the face of this situation, where the opponents of religion seek not simply to silence its voice but to replace it with their own, the need for believers to be true to their principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly. Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of 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 true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God’s creative design for the world and for history.”
INTERFAITH DIALOGUE: “The resolve of Jordanian educators and religious and civic leaders to ensure that the public face of religion reflects its true nature is praiseworthy… Of great merit too are the numerous initiatives of inter-religious dialogue supported by the Royal Family and the diplomatic community and sometimes undertaken in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. These include the ongoing work of the Royal Institutes for Inter-faith studies and for Islamic Thought, the Amman Message of 2004, the Amman Interfaith Message of 2005, and the more recent Common Word letter which echoed a theme consonant with my first encyclical: the unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour, and the fundamental contradiction of resorting to violence or exclusion in the name of God.
(Photo: Benedict delivers his speech, 9 May 2009/Ahmed Jadallah)
“Such initiatives clearly lead to greater reciprocal knowledge, and they foster a growing respect both for what we hold in common and for what we understand differently. Thus, they should prompt Christians and Muslims to probe even more deeply the essential relationship between God and his world so that together we may strive to ensure that society resonates in harmony with the divine order. In this regard, the co-operation found here in Jordan sets an encouraging and persuasive example for the region, and indeed the world, of the positive, creative contribution which religion can and must make to civic society.”
UNITE TO PROMOTE GOOD: “Today I wish to refer to a task which I have addressed on a number of occasions and which I firmly believe Christians and Muslims can embrace, particularly through our respective contributions to learning and scholarship, and public service. That task is the challenge to cultivate for the good, in the context of faith and truth, the vast potential of human reason. Christians in fact describe God, among other ways, as creative Reason, which orders and guides the world. And God endows us with the capacity to participate in his reason and thus to act in accordance with what is good. Muslims worship God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has spoken to humanity. And as believers in the one God we know that human reason is itself God’s gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the light of God’s truth. In fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, it is far from weakened; rather, it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reach beyond its own limitations. In this way, human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind, giving expression to our deepest common aspirations and extending, rather than manipulating or confining, public debate. Thus, genuine adherence to religion – far from narrowing our minds – widens the horizon of human understanding. It protects civil society from the excesses of the unbridled ego which tend to absolutize the finite and eclipse the infinite; it ensures that freedom is exercised hand in hand with truth, and it adorns culture with insights concerning all that is true, good and beautiful.
“Together, Christians and Muslims are impelled to seek all that is just and right. We are bound to step beyond our particular interests and to encourage others, civil servants and leaders in particular, to do likewise in order to embrace the profound satisfaction of serving the common good, even at personal cost. And we are reminded that because it is our common human dignity which gives rise to universal human rights, they hold equally for every man and woman, irrespective of his or her religious, social or ethnic group. In this regard, we must note that the right of religious freedom extends beyond the question of worship and includes the right – especially of minorities – to fair access to the employment market and other spheres of civic life.”
(Photo: Well-wishers in Madaba, 9 May 2009/Muhammad Hamed)
SPEECH AT UNIVERSITY OF MADABA:
CATHOLIC EDUCATION IN JORDAN: “I commend the promoters of this new institution for their courageous confidence in good education as a stepping-stone for personal development and for peace and progress in the region. In this context the University of Madaba will surely keep in mind three important objectives. By developing the talents and noble attitudes of successive generations of students, it will prepare them to serve the wider community and raise its living standards. By transmitting knowledge and instilling in students a love of truth, it will greatly enhance their adherence to sound values and their personal freedom. Finally, this same intellectual formation will sharpen their critical skills, dispel ignorance and prejudice, and assist in breaking the spell cast by ideologies old and new. The result of this process will be a university that is not only a platform for consolidating adherence to truth and to the values of a given culture, but a place of understanding and dialogue. While assimilating their own heritage, young Jordanians and other students from the region will be led to a deeper knowledge of human cultural achievements, will be enriched by other viewpoints, and formed in comprehension, tolerance and peace.”
FAITH SUPPORTS TRUTH: “Belief in God does not suppress the search for truth; on the contrary it encourages it. Saint Paul exhorted the early Christians to open their minds to “all that is true, all that is noble, all that is good and pure, all that we love and honor, all that is considered excellent or worthy of praise” (Phil 4:8). Religion, of course, like science and technology, philosophy and all expressions of our search for truth, can be corrupted. Religion is disfigured when pressed into the service of ignorance or prejudice, contempt, violence and abuse.
(Photo: Lebanese and Jordanian Christians greet Benedict in Madaba, 9 May 2009/Jamal Saidi)
“In this case we see not only a perversion of religion but also a corruption of human freedom, a narrowing and blindness of the mind. Clearly, such an outcome is not inevitable. Indeed, when we promote education, we proclaim our confidence in the gift of freedom. The human heart can be hardened by the limits of its environment, by interests and passions. But every person is also called to wisdom and integrity, to the basic and all-important choice of good over evil, truth over dishonesty, and can be assisted in this task.”
SCIENCE, WISDOM, HUMAN RIGHTS: “Science and technology offer extraordinary benefits to society and have greatly improved the quality of life of many human beings. Undoubtedly this is one of the hopes of those who are promoting this University, whose motto is Sapientia et Scientia. At the same time the sciences have their limitations. They cannot answer all the questions about man and his existence. Indeed the human person, his place and purpose in the universe cannot be contained within the confines of science… The use of scientific knowledge needs the guiding light of ethical wisdom. Such is the wisdom that inspired the Hippocratic Oath, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and other laudable international codes of conduct. Hence religious and ethical wisdom, by answering questions of meaning and value, play a central role in professional formation. And consequently, those universities where the quest for truth goes hand in hand with the search for what is good and noble, offer an indispensable service to society.
CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM STUDENTS: “Dear friends… I pray that your dreams may soon come true, that you may see generations of qualified men and women Christian, Muslim and of other religions, taking their place in society, equipped with professional skills, knowledgeable in their field, and educated in the values of wisdom, integrity, tolerance and peace.”
SPEECH AT MOUNT NEBO:
THE SITE: “It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this mountain, where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar. The magnificent prospect which opens up from the esplanade of this shrine invites us to ponder how that prophetic vision mysteriously embraced the great plan of salvation which God had prepared for his People. For it was in the valley of the Jordan which stretches out below us that, in the fullness of time, John the Baptist would come to prepare the way of the Lord. It was in the waters of the River Jordan that Jesus, after his baptism by John, would be revealed as the beloved Son of the Father and, anointed by the Holy Spirit, would inaugurate his public ministry. And it was from the Jordan that the Gospel would first go forth in Christ’s own preaching and miracles, and then, after his resurrection and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, be brought by his disciples to the very ends of the earth.”
(Photo: View from Mount Nebo into Jordan Valley, 9 May 2009/Ahmed Jadallah)
THE EXAMPLE OF MOSES: “Here, on the heights of Mount Nebo, the memory of Moses invites us to “lift up our eyes” to embrace with gratitude not only God’s mighty works in the past, but also to look with faith and hope to the future which he holds out to us and to our world. Like Moses, we too have been called by name, invited to undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery towards life and freedom, and given an unshakeable promise to guide our journey. In the waters of Baptism, we have passed from the slavery of sin to new life and hope…
Moses gazed upon the Promised Land from afar, at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. His example reminds us that we too are part of the ageless pilgrimage of God’s people through history. In the footsteps of the prophets, the apostles and the saints, we are called to walk with the Lord, to carry on his mission, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s universal love and mercy. We are called to welcome the coming of Christ’s Kingdom by our charity, our service to the poor, and our efforts to be a leaven of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace in the world around us. We know that, like Moses, we may not see the complete fulfilment of God’s plan in our lifetime. Yet we trust that, by doing our small part, in fidelity to the vocation each of us has received, we will help to make straight the paths of the Lord and welcome the dawn of his Kingdom.”
CHRISTIANS AND JEWS: “The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people. From the beginning, the Church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the Patriarchs and Prophets, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two Testaments. May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of Sacred Scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us!”
SERMON AT VESPERS IN GREEK-MELKITE CATHEDRAL OF SAINT GEORGE:
“The public face of your Christian faith is certainly not restricted to the spiritual solicitude you bear for one another and your people, essential though that is. Rather, your many works of universal charity extend to all Jordanians – Muslims and those of other religions – and also to the large numbers of refugees whom this Kingdom so generously welcomes…
(Photo: Iraqi Christian refugees greet Benedict outside St. George’s Cathedral, 9 May 2009/Muhammad Hamed)
“Your liturgies, ecclesiastical discipline and spiritual heritage are a living witness to your unfolding tradition. You amplify the echo of the first Gospel proclamation, you render fresh the ancient memories of the works of the Lord, you make present his saving graces and you diffuse anew the first glimmers of the Easter light and the flickering flames of Pentecost.
“In this way, imitating Christ and the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, we set out to lead people from the desert towards the place of life, towards the Lord who gives us life in abundance. This marks all your apostolic works, the variety and calibre of which are greatly appreciated. From kindergartens to places of higher education, from orphanages to homes for the elderly, from work with refugees to a music academy, medical clinics and hospitals, interreligious dialogue and cultural initiatives, your presence in this society is a marvellous sign of the hope that defines us as Christian.”