Pope Praises Mideast Christian Faithful

May 10, 2009 6:32:11 PM PDT
Pope Celebrated The First Open-Air Mass Of His Holy Land Pilgrimage.Pope Benedict celebrated mass in Jordan this morning as part of his first visit to the middle east.

Sunday's mass comes after a whirlwind trip to holy sites throughout Jordan. The pope is trying to heal old wounds and reach out to members of the Jewish faith.

Pope Benedict continues his trip to the Middle East as a "pilgrim of peace", visiting Jordan Sunday as part of his attempt to strengthen relations between Christians and Muslims.

He spoke to a group of religious leaders at the King Hussein mosque in Amman where he was given a gracious welcome

Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad said, "I bid your holiness welcome today, as we understand this visit to be a deliberate gesture of good will and mutual respect."

The pope told the audience that both groups share a common history of faith that has been marked by many misunderstandings.

Pope Benedict said, "Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied. However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division"

Benedict has faced criticism since a 2006 speech in which he quoted a medieval text that characterized some Islamic teachings as "evil and inhuman."

Earlier Saturday he visited historical sites from the bible including mount Nebo where Moses is believed to have viewed the promise land.

His week-long tour also includes a trip to Israel where he plans to reach out to members of the Jewish faith.

The pope had angered many Jews earlier this year by lifting the excommunication of a bishop who denies the holocaust. But he hopes his personal pilgrimage to Middle East will repair any damage done by that act and others during his time as the leader of Catholic Church.

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