Pope Protests Shooing Religion From Public Sphere

Urges Muslims, Christians to Fidelity as Believers Face Being Silenced

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AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Religion can be corrupted, says Benedict XVI, but it is actually a manipulation of religion, sometimes for political reasons, that leads to tension and division.

The Pope spoke of true religiosity today, the first full day of his weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during his stops at both the University of Madaba and the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque.

The Holy Father arrived in the Middle East on Friday and will visit not only Jordan, but also Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

This morning he blessed the cornerstone of the University of Madaba, being constructed by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. There, he acknowledged, "Religion, of course, like science and technology, philosophy and all expressions of our search for truth, can be corrupted. Religion is disfigured when pressed into the service of ignorance or prejudice, contempt, violence and abuse."

He said that when his happens, it is not only a perversion of religion, but a perversion of human freedom itself, a "narrowing and blindness of the mind."

But, the Pontiff affirmed, "such an outcome is not inevitable. Indeed, when we promote education, we proclaim our confidence in the gift of freedom. The human heart can be hardened by the limits of its environment, by interests and passions. But every person is also called to wisdom and integrity, to the basic and all-important choice of good over evil, truth over dishonesty, and can be assisted in this task."

Faithful worshippers

Later, at Jordan's state mosque -- the second mosque he's visited as Pope -- Benedict XVI again defended true religion.

He said that it is a cause for concern that there is growing insistence that religion fails to be a "builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God."

"Indeed," the Pope lamented, "some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world; and so they argue that the less attention given to religion in the public sphere the better."

But, while acknowledging "the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions," the Pontiff affirmed: "is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?"

"In the face of this situation, where the opponents of religion seek not simply to silence its voice but to replace it with their own, the need for believers to be true to their principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly," he said. "Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty's decrees, merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God's creative design for the world and for history."

Muslim thanks

Prince Ghazi Bin Talal thanked the Holy Father for stopping at the mosque: "This gesture is all the more remarkable, given the fact that this visit to Jordan by Your Holiness is primarily a spiritual pilgrimage to the Christian Holy Land, and in particular to the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ. [...] And yet Your Holiness has made time, in your intense and tiring schedule, tiring for a man of any age, for this visit to the King Hussein mosque, in order to honor Muslims."

The prince was the organizer of the "Common Word" message, sent by 138 Muslim scholars in response to turmoil over a misunderstanding of a 2006 speech the Holy Father gave in Regensburg.

In the face of misunderstandings, the Jordanian official asserted that Muslims have the task of explaining Mohammed's example, "above all, with deeds of virtue, charity, and piety and goodwill."

And he offered Jordan as an example of a place where people of different religions coexist in peace. He particularly highlighted the role of Christians in Jordan, saying they "have always not only defended Jordan but have also tirelessly and patriotically helped to build Jordan, playing leading roles in the fields of education, health, commerce, tourism, agriculture, science, culture, and many other fields. All this is to say, then, that whilst Your Holiness may believe them to be your fellow Christians, we know them to be our fellow Jordanians. And they are as much a part of this country as the land itself."

"We hope that this unique Jordanian spirit of interfaith harmony, benevolence and mutual respect, will serve as an example to the whole world," the prince added, lamenting places where "Muslim minorities are hard-pressed by Christian majorities, as well as [...] where the opposite is the case."

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text of Pope's address at university: www.zenit.org/article-25837?l=english


Full text of Pope's address at mosque: www.zenit.org/article-25838?l=english