Pope Benedict arrives in Jordan

  At 3.30pm. local time yesterday, the Holy Father arrived at the "Regina Pacis" Centre in the Jordanian capital city of Amman. The centre, founded by Bishop Salim Sayegh, Latin patriarchal vicar of Jordan, is dedicated to the social rehabilitation of people with disabilities. Having been greeted by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Pope began his remarks by praising the work of the Comboni Sisters and the lay staff who work in the centre.

"Like countless pilgrims before me", he said, "it is now my turn to satisfy that profound wish to touch, to draw solace from and to venerate the places where Jesus lived, the places which were made holy by His presence. Since apostolic times, Jerusalem has been the primary place of pilgrimage for Christians, but earlier still, in the ancient Near East, Semitic peoples built sacred shrines in order to mark and commemorate a divine presence or action. And ordinary people would travel to these centres carrying a portion of the fruits of their land and livestock to offer in homage and thanksgiving".

"Every one of us is a pilgrim", he continued. "We are all drawn forward, with purpose, along God's path ... sometimes with trepidation or anxiety, but always with expectation and hope, knowing too that there are others who encourage us along the way. I know that the journeys that have led many of you to the 'Regina Pacis' Centre have been marked by suffering or trial. Some of you struggle courageously with disabilities, others of you have endured rejection. ... Of particular importance, I know, is the centre's great success in promoting the rightful place of the disabled in society".

"At times it is difficult to find a reason for what appears only as an obstacle to be overcome or even as pain - physical or emotional - to be endured. Yet faith and understanding help us to see a horizon beyond our own selves in order to imagine life as God does. God's unconditional love, which gives life to every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life".

"Unlike the pilgrims of old, I do not come bearing gifts or offerings. I come simply with an intention, a hope: to pray for the precious gift of unity and peace, most specifically for the Middle East. Peace for individuals, ... for communities, peace for Jerusalem, for the Holy Land, for the region, peace for the entire human family; the lasting peace born of justice, integrity and compassion, the peace that arises from humility, forgiveness and the profound desire to live in harmony as one.

"Prayer is hope in action", the Holy Father added, for through it "we come into loving contact with the one God, the universal Creator, and in so doing we come to realise the futility of human divisions and prejudices and we sense the wondrous possibilities that open up before us when our hearts are converted to God's truth, to His design for each of us and our world".

Turning then to address young people at the centre, Benedict XVI said that among them he "drew strength from God". And he went on: "Your experience of trials, your witness to compassion, and your determination to overcome the obstacles you encounter, encourage me in the belief that suffering can bring about change for the good. In our own trials, and standing alongside others in their struggles, we glimpse the essence of our humanity, we become, as it were, more human. And we come to learn that, on another plane, even hearts hardened by cynicism or injustice or unwillingness to forgive are never beyond the reach of God, can always be opened to a new way of being, a vision of peace".

The Holy Father concluded his remarks by calling upon everyone "to pray every day for our world" and, now in particular, "for me every day of my pilgrimage; for my own spiritual renewal in the Lord, and for the conversion of hearts to God's way of forgiveness and solidarity so that my hope - our hope - for unity and peace in the world will bear abundant fruit".

Following his visit, the Holy Father went to the apostolic nunciature in Amman. Later today he is due to travel to the Al-Husseiniyeh Palace where he will pay a courtesy visit to Jordanian monarchs King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.

Sources: VIS

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