Pope to visit mosque during trip to Jordan in May

February 19th, 2009 - 4:15 am ICT by IANS  

Amman, Feb 19 (DPA) The Pope will visit Jordan’s largest mosque as a gesture of goodwill to the Arab and Islamic worlds during his trip to the country later this year, a spokesman for the Catholic church in Amman said Wednesday.
Pope Benedict XVI, currently under fire for readmitting into the Catholic church a bishop who rejects the Holocaust, is tentatively scheduled to visit Jordan from May 8, his first visit to an Arab country.

His itinerary will include a visit to the Hussein Bin Talal Mosque in an Amman suburb, according to Father Rifaat Bader, a spokesman for Jordan’s Roman Catholic Church, said.

The pontiff’s visit to the mosque “will have the objective of demonstrating the Vatican’s recognition of mutual respect among the divine religions,” Bader, who is coordinating the Pope’s visit with the Vatican, told DPA.

“Being the pope’s first visit to an Arab country, the trip will also help to erect new bridges with the Islamic faith, open a new chapter in the Islamic-Christian dialogue and give a push to the newly-established Catholic Islamic Forum (CIF),” he said.

Bader pointed out that the CIF, which was created in April 2008, held its first meeting at the Vatican in November with the participation of 138 Muslim scholars.

The participants “pledged to start a dialogue that has the main objective of protecting human dignity and world peace”, he said.

The pontiff’s stop at the Hussein Bin Talal Mosque, which was named after the late King Hussein who died in 1999, will be his second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming Pope in 2005. In 2006, Benedict prayed at Turkey’s famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

“The Pope also planned to meet with leading Muslim figures during his visit to the Mosque in Amman,” Bader said.

He said that a Vatican official was scheduled to arrive in Amman Thursday to put the final touches to the agenda of the Pope’s visit to Jordan, the pontiff’s first stop in his journey to the Holy Land, which includes Israel and the Palestinian territories.

During his visit to Jordan, the Pope is scheduled to visit biblical sites including Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have first seen the promised land, and a spot on the River Jordan, where Jesus is said to have been baptized, he added.

Benedict’s programme also includes a public mass in Jordan, where more than 200,000 Christians live. The Christian community in Jordan represents about 4 percent of the country’s 5.5-million population.

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