Bringing his time in Jordan to a close, Pope Benedict XVI bid the country farewell at the Queen Alia airport on Monday morning. He said that the events of the visit will remain “firmly etched” in his memory and thanked King Abdullah for his willingness to allow the Christian community to grow in Jordan.
Although Pope Benedict only spent three days in Jordan, he was treated very well by the Jordanians, a fact he mentioned in his farewell speech. “As I prepare for the next stage of my pilgrimage to the lands of the Bible, I want to thank all of you for the warm welcome that I have received in Jordan over these last few days,” he said. The Holy Father then noted the Catholic events that brought him “particular joy.”
First, he recalled the opening of a new wing of the Queen of Peace (Regina Pacis) Center, which he said will “open up fresh possibilities of bringing hope to those who struggle with difficulties of various kinds, and to their families.”
Another event the Pope recalled with joy was the blessing of the cornerstones for the two churches that will be built in Bethany, the site where archaeologists say that Jesus was baptized.
Lastly, the blessing of the cornerstone of the Catholic University at Madaba was a significant event for the Pope. He stated that the university has “a particularly important contribution to offer to the wider community, in forming young people from various traditions in the skills that will enable them to shape the future of civil society. To all who are involved in these projects, I offer good wishes and the promise of my prayers,” he said.
The visit to the Al-Hussein Bin Talal Mosque was also a highlight for the Pope.
The message that the Holy Father wants “all Jordanians, whether Christian or Muslim,” to take from this visit is that they should “build on the firm foundations of religious tolerance that enable the members of different communities to live together in peace and mutual respect.”
Expressing his gratitude to King Abdullah for his dedication to promoting inter-religious dialogue, Pope Benedict added that he also wanted to “gratefully acknowledge the particular consideration that he shows towards the Christian community in Jordan. This spirit of openness not only helps the members of different ethnic communities in this country to live together in peace and concord, but it has contributed to Jordan’s far-sighted political initiatives to build peace throughout the Middle East,” he said.
Looking back at his visit, the Pope said it was “truly a joy for me to experience these Eastertide celebrations in company with the Catholic faithful from different traditions, united in the Church’s communion and in witness to Christ. I encourage all of them to remain faithful to their baptismal commitment, mindful that Christ himself received baptism from John in the waters of the river Jordan.”
“As I bid you farewell, I want you to know that I hold in my heart the people of the Hashemite Kingdom and all who live throughout this region. I pray that you may enjoy peace and prosperity, now and for generations to come.”