Pope Benedict XVI called for Muslim-Christian unity in an address at the Al Hussein Mosque in Amman on Saturday, the second day of his visit to the Middle East.
He is due to arrive in Israel on Monday, when he will meet with government officials, both chief rabbis and will visit the Yad VaShem Holocaust memorial center in addition to the Christian holy sites on his pilgrimage itinerary.
“Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied,” he noted in his address, adding that politics often muddies the picture as well.
“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?” he said.
He also called for reconciliation between Christians and Jews during a visit earlier in the day to Mount Nebo, from where G-d showed Moses the Land of Israel. The site is located 40 kilometers (24 miles) southwest of Amman.
“May our encounter today inspire in us a… desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews,” he said.
Later at the mosque, the pontiff was not asked to remove his shoes, as is customary in Muslim houses of worship.
A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said “Benedict XVI was ready to take them off, but his escorts led him down a special walkway and did not ask him to do so.”
Some Muslim clerics expressed disappointment that the pope also did not offer a new apology for an academic reference he made in 2006 to an obscure medieval text that called some of the teachings of Islam’s founder, Mohammed, “evil and inhuman.” The pontiff said at the time that the reference did not reflect his own views.
Sheikh Yusef Abu Hussein, mufti of Karak, a southern Jordanian city, told the AFP news agency after the pope’s address, “We wanted him to clearly apologize” and not simply express regrets, an action that was praised by Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, religious adviser to Jordanian King Abdullah II.
“I would like to thank you for expressing regret over the lecture in 2006, which hurt the Muslims,” he told the pope. “We realize that the visit comes as a goodwill gesture and a sign of mutual respect between Muslims and Christians.”
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