Welcoming His Holiness Pope Francis
24 May 2014
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate
Blessings and peace be upon Prophet Mohammad, the last prophet and messenger, the truthful Arab Hashemite.
Asalam Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu
Welcome to Jordan, the land of peace and Muslim-Christian harmony, and home of prophets and saints. Allah says:
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate,
Yet they are not all alike; some of the People of the Scripture are a community upright, who recite God’s verses in the watches of the night, prostrating themselves. They believe in God and in the Last Day, enjoining decency and forbidding indecency, vying with one another in good works; those are of the righteous. [Al Imran: 113-114]
Saddaka Allahu Al Atheem
On behalf of all Jordanians, welcome!
It is a special honour that your pilgrimage to the Holy Land begins here, in Jordan: land of faith, land of fellowship.
Here, fifty years ago, my late father His Majesty King Hussein welcomed Pope Paul the Sixth – the first official papal visit to a Muslim country.
Here, fourteen years ago, I was privileged to welcome Saint John Paul the Second; and five years ago, Pope Benedict the Sixteenth.
Here, today, Muslims and Christians are building a shared future, on the common ground of mutual respect, peace and devotion to God.
Common ground is where the next steps for all humanity must begin.
In our modern era, we face vast global challenges. Not least is the terrible cost of sectarian and inter-religious conflict. But God has given us an invincible defense. Where ideologues spread ignorance and distrust, our joined voices can bring understanding and good will. Where lives have been shattered by injustice and violence, our united efforts can help bring healing and hope.
Indeed, the world is rich with people of good will, who seek to uphold human dignity and peaceful coexistence. Let me acknowledge, with gratitude, your leadership in this cause. You have committed yourself to dialogue, especially with Islam. Muslims everywhere appreciate your messages of esteem and friendship. In addition to being the successor of Saint Peter, Your Holiness, you have become a conscience for the whole world.
Since becoming Pontiff, you have reminded us, in word and in deed, that ‘Pontiff’ means “bridge builder”. Jordanians, too, are building bridges. Our work includes concrete and tangible actions, over many years.
Ten years ago, I was honoured to issue The Amman Message, reaffirming Islam’s call for universal harmony, mercy and justice, and clearly rejecting the false claims of those who spread hatred and sow division.
Jordan is also home to the 2007 initiative, “A Common Word” − reflecting the two great commandments of Islam and Christianity alike: to Love God and Love One’s Neighbour. The people of our two religions − more than half of humanity − are each other’s neighbours, everywhere. “A Common Word” has brought new dialogue between us. Two major Catholic-Muslim forums have taken place, one at the Vatican and one in Jordan. A third such Forum will take place in Rome next November, God willing.
As the 41st descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), I have sought to uphold the true spirit of Islam, the Islam of peace. My Hashemite duty extends to protecting the Holy Sites of Christians and Muslims in Jordan and in Jerusalem. As Custodian, I am committed to safeguarding the Holy City, as a place of worship for all and, God willing, a safe home for all communities for all generations.
Last year, Jordan convened an historic regional conference on the challenges facing Arab Christians. Let me say, forthrightly, that Arab Christian communities are an integral part of the Middle East.
Here in Jordan, a long Christian heritage exists in harmony with our country’s Islamic heritage and identity. We treasure this inheritance. Your Holiness, we are delighted that you, like your predecessors, will perform a pilgrimage to the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), at Bethany beyond the Jordan.
World peace depends on understanding and co-existence among all people, of every belief. To that end, in 2010, we spearheaded the United Nation's new, annual “World Interfaith Harmony Week”. In recognition, we established an annual prize, bestowed this year on youth and organisations in India, the Philippines, Uganda and Egypt.
In the days ahead, may we continue to work together to strengthen accord and meet challenges. Your humanity and wisdom can make a special contribution to easing the crisis of Syrian refugees and the burden on neighbouring host countries like Jordan. We must help Syria regain its future, end the bloodshed, and find a peaceful political solution.
Your actions and support also continue to be needed to help Palestinians and Israelis resolve their long conflict. The status-quo of ‘justice denied’ to the Palestinians; fear of the other; fear of change; these are the way to mutual ruin, not mutual respect. Together, we can help leaders on both sides take the courageous steps needed, for peace, justice and co-existence.
You begin your Holy Land pilgrimage with the warm friendship and sincere respect of all Jordanians. May your work be fruitful and bring peace, for blessed are the peacemakers.