Jordan's Prince El Hassan Ibn Talal has expressed the desire to see "a template of hope" developed during Pope Francis' May 24-26 visit to the Holy Land.
Speaking with Catholic News Service, the prince welcomed the Pope's decision to have a rabbi and a Muslim leader accompany him on the three-day visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Observers believe the gesture underscores the importance the Pope attaches to inter-religious dialogue.
"Whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, extremists seem to be doing their best to bring about Armageddon, rather than work toward any form of convivial solution whereby the Holy Land is not only holy in name and description, but also in perspective of the future," the Prince said.
"That's why His Holiness' visit accompanied by a Jew and Muslim, I think, is more than just symbolic," he said in a May 17 interview.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud who will be part of the official Vatican delegation, are friends of Pope Francis from his native Argentina. The Pope invited them to make the trip with him in order to send what Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, called, "an extremely strong and explicit signal" about the importance of inter-religious dialogue in the Middle East, one of the world's most troubled and conflict-ridden regions.
"I just hope that this story will grow and grow and will be an awareness program," Prince Hassan said, adding that the majority moderate voice in society around the world must be strengthened.
"The middle ground can only be built with the participation of Jews, Christians and Muslims, aware as they should be of the wisdom of the ancients: The rule of respecting your neighbor and expecting for your neighbor what you expect for yourself," the prince said.
"How can we develop good neighborly relations unless we develop a social contract?" he asked.
The prince also underscored the importance of Francis' meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in the hopes that efforts for Christian unity will be enhanced.
Prince Hassan said he would like to see a regional conference held promoting effective dialogue and more of such work done on the international level at the United Nations.
"The ethical response to the challenges we are facing at the moment was actually achieved in our call for a new international humanitarian order. The ecclesiastical community, the Holy See, the UN, and the ecumenical community have a lot to do in 2015 when the UN celebrates 70 years of its existence," he said.
"My hope is that the template of the UN could be used to develop an advocacy of justice for all," he added, saying more must be done to address poverty, draw in those marginalized in society and expand political participation to all citizens through constitutions that are more explicit and less general.
Jordan's King Abdullah II and senior members of the Hashemite royal household, such as Prince Hassan, have been credited for undertaking initiatives aimed at buttressing moderate Islam and promoting religious tolerance.
For the past four decades, Prince Hassan has worked as a leading international proponent of interfaith understanding and dialogue. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2008 Niwano prize for religious contributions to peace.
The 67-year-old brother of Jordan's late King Hussein is founder of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and the Arab Thought Forum, both based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. He is also president emeritus of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, an international organization that promotes peace through cooperation and dialogue. Prince Hassan is the 42nd generation direct descendant of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and the author of numerous books.
A recent meeting between the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the prince's Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies issued a joint appeal in Amman May 14 calling for "integral education" and denouncing all forms of violence.
Signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Prince Hassan, the statement condemns "all forms of violence, and most recently, the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls."
Underlining that "the conviction that religion is not the cause of conflicts but rather inhumanity and ignorance" are the causes, participants stated the importance of developing a "cultural decalogue" for today's youth, promoting, among other things, "intellectual curiosity and courage" and viewing "pluralism as richness, not a threat."
Prince Hassan has worked with retired Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger; in 1999, both were among the co-founders of the Geneva-based Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue.
The prince also lauded the approach Pope Francis has taken to the papacy.
"The reaching out to people is a very human tradition, and I regard this as extremely important in terms of what I have seen and read to date," he said of Pope Francis. "His accessibility indicates a great deal of deep thought."
By: Catholic News Service