“Dialogue can lead to beneficial joint action,” said King Abdallah II of Jordan. These simple but incisive words reflect the human and spiritual stature of the king and the entire Hashemite family. He believes strongly in dialogue and spares no effort in practicing it in a part of the world that for decades has faced many challenges concerning tolerance and peace.
Welcoming Pope Francis is one more concrete demonstration that he wants to establish and strengthen relationships and work together for peace. It is striking to see how this little State that is overwhelmingly Muslim is making every effort to make the Catholic pope feel at home. The streets of Amman are covered with huge posters showing the smiling faces of Francis and Abdalla II shaking hands; and next to their faces an expressive: “maan” (together). A few days ago the Apostolic Nuncio, Giorgio Lingua, enthusiastically affirmed that a real family does things with warmth, with the heart. And we can confirm that none of this is artificial, although it is obvious that the country will benefit both economically and in visibility from the Pope’s visit. But this is a sign of intelligence, not falsehood.
Pope Francis could not have begun his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in a more appropriate place! Here is where Pope Paul VI was welcomed in 1964 by King Hussein; and John Paul II in 2000 and Benedict XVI in 2009, by King Abdallah II.
These are certainly not rosy days for this region that has already been marked by so much instability. The conflict in Syria has been a shock for the neighbouring countries. It is enough to recall the millions and more Syrian refugees, or the thousands of Iraqi who have recently found secure refuge here. But welcoming all these people in a country that also suffers the lack of water and electricity gives a sense of the generous spirit of the Jordanian people.
The local Church has been planning down to the tiniest details, the Pope’s visit on Saturday, May 24. Following his arrival at the airport there will be the celebration of Mass in the Amman Stadium, and then the pilgrimage of Pope Francis to the Jordan River, the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism. There he is expected to meet a dozen handicapped people, along with volunteers and refugees. On Sunday morning the Pope will leave the country, to continue his pilgrimage in Jerusalem.
At the airport we saw a very old woman who was arriving from Baghdad, along with many other Christians who are flowing in from neighbouring countries. That woman made a great impression on us. She was having trouble walking, her health wasn’t exactly vigorous; she had barely the strength for such a demanding journey. But she transmitted such strong faith, of someone who felt it was important to place her life, her people and the future of this region before the Vicar of Christ, who alone can instill new hope for better days of peace among all.”
Source: Focolare Movement in Jordan