The Dome of the Rock, a sacred site for Muslims, Christians and Jews, was visited by Pope Benedict on Tuesday morning. During his visit the Pope emphasized that everyone must realize that they are “fundamentally interrelated,” and therefore must use reason and freedom to promote the love of God and neighbor.
Pope Benedict was welcomed to the Dome of the Rock, the place where tradition holds that Abraham planned to sacrifice his son Isaac, by the Grand Mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, together with the Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Foundations, Sheikh Mohammed Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi, and the Head of the Awquaf Council, Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab.
As he was led through the monument, the Pope walked without his shoes out of respect for Muslim custom. In a press conference following the visit, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Holy Father was unable to see the rock that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son on because of ongoing construction.
The Holy Father began his speech by recalling that the Dome of the Rock “draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world’s three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing.”
And yet, our world is “sadly torn by divisions,” the Pope observed. This “sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.”
Because these type of discussions concern “all that is most sacred and dear to us,” Pope Benedict warned that “there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success.”
But since the “One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy” we can move ahead with trust, the Pope assured. When Catholics, Muslims and Jews begin with this basis, their faithfulness to the Creator leads them to realize that they are “fundamentally interrelated” and must work to mend divisions and promote human solidarity.
“This places a grave responsibility upon us,” the Pope stated.
“Those who honor the One God believe that he will hold human beings accountable for their actions. Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity. Undivided love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbor thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns. This is why we work untiringly to safeguard human hearts from hatred, anger or vengeance.”
“Dear friends,” the Holy Father said, “I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith. I thank God for this occasion to meet you as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, but also as a child of Abraham, by whom ‘all the families of the earth find blessing.’ I assure you of the Church’s ardent desire to cooperate for the well-being of the human family,” Pope Benedict said.