March 21, 2000
volume 11, no. 57
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    AMMAN, Jordan (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II arrived in Amman, Jordan, early in the afternoon of March 20, beginning his long-awaited pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

    The Pope's plane arrived at the Amman airport after a four-hour flight from Rome; it was accompanied on the last leg of that flight by an escort of Mirage jets from the Jordanian air force.

    At an airport welcoming ceremony, the Holy Father alluded to the involvement of Jordan in the Middle East peace process, saying, "Although it has been difficult because it has been a long time, the search for peace must continue."

    The Pope was greeted by King Abdallah II as he stepped off the plane, and seemed energetic as he walked down a long red carpet to meet other waiting dignitaries, including Queen Rania and members of the Catholic hierarchy and the country's Muslim leadership under a large colored tent.

    In his formal remarks, the Pope remarked that "since the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I have had a great desire" to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For some months the Holy Father has pointed toward the Jubilee year as the time for that pilgrimage, but in fact at the very beginning of his papacy, in 1978, he expressed the wish that he might sometime be able to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem.

    Addressing himself directly to King Abdallah, and saluting both the current king and his father, King Hussein, for their efforts on behalf of peace in the Middle East, the Pope said that all believers-- Christian, Muslim, and Jewish- - should recognize themselves as "one people and one single family." He added that in the Middle East, "there are serious and urgent questions regarding justice, the rights of peoples and of nations, which must be resolved for the welfare of everyone involved." The resolution to these problems, he said, is "a condition for a durable peace."

    King Abdallah, in his own remarks, welcomed the Pontiff as "a man of peace" as well as "a believer in God" and "a symbol of all that is pure and noble in this life." Speaking more explicitly about the peace process, he said that he hoped for a solution that would give hope to the Palestinian people in their desire for justice, while guaranteeing the security of Israel and the stability and integrity of Lebanon. He also mentioned the suffering of the people of Iraq under an American-led embargo.

    The Pope, in his talk at the airport, also mentioned the tiny Catholic community in Jordan, which makes up just about 1 percent of the country's population. The leaders of that Catholic community were on hand to welcome him: the Melkite-rite Bishop George El-Murr of Amman, the Latin vicar for Amman, Bishop Selim Sayegh, and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, who is the president of the assembly of Catholic bishops of the Holy Land-- a region which embraces Jordan. The Pope pointed out that the Catholic Church has played an important role in Jordan-- as in the neighboring lands-- in establishing schools, hospitals, and other charitable institutions. In Jordan especially, he said, "your noble tradition of respect for all religions" has helped to further the apostolic mission of the Catholic faith.

    As the Pope was traveling to Jordan, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera carried an interview with Queen Rania, who had met the Pontiff during a visit to Rome in September 1999. The queen said that "without a doubt the Pope will touch the hearts of everyone in Jordan, a country that is determined to be a model of religious tolerance."


    AMMAN, Jordan (CWNews.com) -- On March 20, after being welcomed to Amman, Jordan, by the country's King Abdallah, Pope John Paul II made his pilgrimage to Mount Nebo-- where, like Moses, he looked out over the Promised Land.

    Situated about 15 miles southwest of Amman, in the middle of the Jordan River valley, Mount Nebo is about 2500 feet high, and from the peak one can see far into the hills of Judea and Samaria. Although the Pope's visit came on a sunny day, a bit of haze in the distance obscured the view of Bethlehem, Jericho, the Dead Sea, and the skyline of Jerusalem. But the Pope did his best to make out the various sites, aided by a local Franciscan priest who pointed out various landmarks to him.

    About 20 Franciscan monks welcomed the Pope to Mount Nebo, where a small metal shelter has been built around the ruins of a 6th-century sanctuary-- which in turn was built on the site traditionally believed to be where Moses stopped to look into the Promised Land before his death. There, inside the ancient walls, the Pope and the bishops of Jordan took part in a short prayer service, and the Pope prayed on the spot marked as the burial place of Moses. A children's choir sang Latin and Arabic chants for the service. After the ceremony, the Pope greeted each youngster individually-- doing so with obvious enjoyment.

    Before leaving Mount Nebo for the automobile ride back into Amman, the Pope prayed for God's help along "each step of this trip to this land-- his land."

John Paul II Advocates Peace and Follows in Moses' Footsteps

    AMMAN, MAR 20 (ZENIT.org).- Jordan is the first stage of the 91st international trip of John Paul II, considered by many as "the" trip par excellence of his pontificate, because of its important spiritual significance and the expectations awakened in terms of the peace process in the Middle East.

    After a 4-hour flight, the Pope's plane landed in "Queen Alia" International Airport at 2 p.m. local time. The Pontiff was received by King Abdala II of Jordan, the son and successor of King Hussein. Cannon salvos accompanied the Holy Father's steps as he left the aircraft.

    As is his custom, the Pope's first gesture was to kiss this soil of this land, which presented him with an artistic bowl. The ceremony was solemnized by a parade of the Royal Guard in traditional uniform.

    The Pope's first words in Jordan were dedicated to peace in the Middle East. Addressing King Abdala II, he said: "Your Majesty, I know how deeply concerned you are for peace in your land and in the entire region, and how important it is to you that all Jordanians, Muslims and Christians, should consider themselves as one people and one family. In this area of the world there are grave and urgent issues of justice, of the rights of peoples and nations, which have to be resolved for the good of all concerned and as a condition for lasting peace."

    The future lies in dialogue. "No matter how difficult, no matter how long, the process of seeking peace must continue. Without peace there can be no authentic development for this region, no better life for its peoples, no brighter future for its children. That is why Jordan's proven commitment to securing the conditions necessary for peace is so important and praiseworthy." At this moment of the Pope's speech, Church bells pealed in this overwhelmingly Muslim country.

    The Holy Father also mentioned the religious reasons for this trip, in celebration of 2000 years since the birth of Christ. He referred to the "spiritual" pilgrimage he made to Ur of the Chaldeans last month, and to his trip to Egypt, which took him to Mount Sinai and has now brought him to Jordan, a "land sanctified by the presence of Jesus himself, by the presence of Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist, and of saints and martyrs of the early Church." His purpose is precisely to visit those places in which the presence of God in Revelation changed human history forever.

    Finally, the Holy Father said he had arrived in a friendly country. "Yours is a land noted for its hospitality and openness to all." This openness enables the country to guarantee religious liberty, "a fundamental human right." In this way, "all citizens feel themselves equal, and each one, inspired by his own spiritual convictions, can contribute to the building up of society as the shared home of all."

    In his welcome address, the Jordanian King also emphasized the need the area has for a lasting peace. He said he was convinced of the possibility to reach this objective, because "the power of love is stronger than the conflicts." After recognizing the visit of John Paul II, the "holy man" of peace, to the Hashemite Kingdom as "historic," the King continued to ask for peace for all the peoples of the Middle East, and stated that Jordanians are determined to carry this objective forward.

Visit to Mount Nebo

    John Paul II's marathon around the Holy Land continued with a visit to Mount Nebo. From its 806 meter height Moses was able to glimpse the Promised Land. The Pope was also able to enjoy the unique view of the Holy Land from this vantage point, including Bethlehem, the Jerusalem cupolas, the Jordan valley, the Dead Sea, and the oasis of Jericho. Here the Holy Father prayed for all people who now live in the Promised Land, Jews, Muslims and Christians, and for peace among them, in justice and fraternity.

    It was a simple and cordial meeting, in which the hosts were the Franciscans, responsible for the custody of this monastery, whose foundations date back to the 4th century. Fr. Michele Piccirillo, the Superior of this Franciscan community and a great expert in archeology, illustrated in detail the secrets and meaning of the place. In remembrance of his pilgrimage, the Holy Father blessed a commemorative plaque as a gesture of good will for the first stage of restoration in this memorial to Moses. The restoration of the place, which is venerated by Muslims, Jews and Christians, will become a symbol of the new era of peace the region is enjoying.

    After thanking the Franciscan community for its hospitality, the Pope returned to Amman, where shortly afterwards King Abdala II was waiting for him in his residence for a private meeting. At the end of this meeting, the Pope went to the Apostolic Nunciature where he will spend the night.

    Tomorrow morning, the Holy Father will celebrate the most imposing Mass in this country's history, during which he will baptize 2,000 children in the Amman Stadium. ZE00032007


March 21, 2000
volume 11, no. 57

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