Pope Benedict XVI will visit Jordan’s largest mosque during his first papal tour of the Holy Land in May, a local Roman Catholic priest said Tuesday.
Associated Press Writer
The pope’s stop at the Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman will be his second visit to a Muslim place of worship since becoming pope in 2005, said Rifat Bader, a Catholic priest in Jordan who is the spokesman for the Jordanian leg of the pope’s Holy Land tour. In 2006, Benedict prayed at Turkey’s famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
“He will also meet there with Muslim leaders and religious scholars at the mosque, underlining the coexistence between religions,” Bader told The Associated Press.
The mosque, built in outskirts of Amman nearly four years ago, is named after the late King Hussein, who died in 1999.
Jordan will be the pope’s first stop on the Holy Land tour from May 8-15, Bader said. He will also travel to Israel and the West Bank, making stops in cities including Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Bader said discussions were under way to possibly add Gaza on the pope’s itinerary.
During his three-day stay in Jordan, the pope will also visit biblical sites including Mount Nebo, where Moses is said to have first seen the promised land, and a spot on the Jordanian River, where Jesus is believed to have been baptized, Bader said.
The pope also plans to hold a public Mass in Jordan, where 3 percent of the country’s 5.8 million people are Christians.
Benedict will then travel to Israel, where President Shimon Peres is expected to escort him. Bader said the pope will stop at the recently renovated Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum during his visit to Jerusalem and will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
The late Pope John Paul II came to the Holy Land in a 2000 pilgrimage, visiting Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The visit to the Mideast comes at a time of strained relations between the Vatican and Israel. The fragile relations worsened last month when the German pope reinstated an excommunicated bishop who has questioned the extent of the Holocaust. Benedict later condemned the bishop’s remarks and spoke out against anti-Semitism.
Relations between the Vatican and the Muslim world have also been tense in recent years. In 2006, Benedict made remarks on Islam and holy war during a speech in Germany that angered many Muslims, leading him to backtrack and declare himself “deeply sorry.”