Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Friday, 31 May 2024

Ten years have elapsed since Pope Francis visited the Holy Land

Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader :

Ten years ago, Pope Francis’ plane touched down in Amman, marking the 4th papal visit to Jordan and Palestine, in its capacity as a pilgrimage to the holy places. It was also the third visit during the reign of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein, who received at the same Amman Airport Pope John Paul II in 2000, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis in 2014.


This anniversary takes place 60 years after the first papal visit of Pope Paul VI to Jordan, where he was received by the late King Hussein Ibn Talal, marking the beginning of good relations, friendship, and cooperation between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Holy See which came true with the establishment of  diplomatic relations thirty years ago,  namely in 1994.


It is impressive that this 10th anniversary coincides with the  25th  anniversary of the ascension of King Abdullah II to the Throne, and with independence anniversary which we celebrate nowadays. Thus, the memory of the visit makes us think about the fruits that we had hoped would be borne.


First: The papal visit took place under a broad title, namely pilgrimage to the holy places. Perhaps the trip always starts from Jordan which emphasizes the uniqueness of Jordan as a holy place where major events took place as mentioned in the Holy Bible, wither in its Old Testament or in the New Testament. Thus, it is not surprising that today Jordan is called a holy land being visited by pilgrims from all over the world. From this premise, we ask God to free the Palestinian people from the injustice being inflicted on them, so that pilgrims and tourists would restore the status quo ante by visiting Jordan or Palestine.


Second: This visit makes us think about the similar Jordanian and Vatican positions adopted towards the central issue in the East, especially these days with regards to what is happening to the people in Gaza as there is a concurrent position on the need to attain an immediate ceasefire, which is what His Majesty the King emphasizes repeatedly and is also a matter which Pope Francis focuses on in every official address he makes. Perhaps, the visit that took place last month by His Majesty the King, namely his 7th meeting with Pope Francis, is likely to have emphasized these common constants and asserted cooperation in calling for observing peace. This is the same issue that was emphasized during the visit made by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallaghar, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, two months ago to Jordan, where  light was shed  on the coordination of the Jordanian and Vatican positions towards the brethren in Palestine.


Third: This visit served as an occasion to deepen consideration of interreligious dialogue and the constructive encounter between Muslims and Christians, as well as between the Holy See that represents a spiritual leadership for more than 1.4 billion people, and the Islamic religious specificity which Jordan enjoys with the Hashemite custodianship of the holy sites, and the personality of King Abdullah II, who leads a movement in the world, namely of love, affection, brotherhood, and harmony, a matter that made His Majesty the King receive numerous international awards due to his initiatives that have become well-known in the entire world.


Fourth: This anniversary marks the 20th anniversary of the launching of the Amman Message, which we are proud of in Jordan, in its capacity as the rational voice regarding what Islam is accused of, as Jordan staged a confrontation with this document that has become global. Likewise, two years later a conference on Christian Arabs convened, where Christians of Jordan and Palestine gathered to say no to label Islam with terrorism. We do not forget the conference that His Majesty the King called for on the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to Jordan and Palestine, titled: “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians" on September 3-4, 2013, where His Majesty the King called for preserving the Christian Arab identity and called its protection "a duty rather that  a favor."


Fifth: We take into consideration the papal visit in its second part after Jordan, which is the visit to the Holy Land, especially to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, as he celebrated a solemn Mass in the Manger Square, and stressed the importance of the active Christian role in Palestine, which was concomitant with his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Church of Holy Sepulcher, where he stressed the importance of Christian-Christian encounter, given that the visit was also 50 years after the first meeting between the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in 1964.


We recall this beautiful papal visit, and undoubtedly what happened next, namely the forcible displacement of the Christians of Mosul and the towns of the Nineveh Plain, and Jordan’s welcoming them as dear brothers, as well as the praises made by Pope Francis in several official speeches, when he lauded the Jordanian role of welcoming the refugees and the forcibly displaced while calling on the United States not to leave Jordan alone in receiving refugees, whether from brotherly Syria or Iraq.


Heartfelt greeting is conveyed to all the efforts made by the peacemakers, namely the Pope and His Majesty the King.