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In Moses' footsteps

A concrete example of the trilateral dialogue that the Pope had hoped for: that is exactly what Benedict XVI's pilgrimage is, to the places holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. A religious journey that could not have begun anywhere other than the memorial dedicated to Moses on Mount Nebo; there where, in the biblical tradition, he fixed his gaze on the Promised Land and his own destiny.

For almost half a millennium the Bishop of Rome's Predecessors have seen, upon the eastern wall of the Sistine Chapel, the depiction of the death of Israel's lawgiver beside that of the Resurrection of Christ. Now their current Successor has had the opportunity – as had John Paul II in the Jubilee Year – to contemplate the country promised to God's People of the Covenant in the morning mist – to meditate on the unique history of salvation and reconciliation between Jews and Christians.

Just as happened to Moses, every believer will close his/her eyes on this mortal life before having been able to see the full realization of the divine plan, after a daily journey, whether short or long, in this desert of the world. Thus each participates – as the Pope emphasized – in that uninterrupted journey of so many pilgrims, trusting that God will open to each the chance of life with every  new day, towards the same future that it is already possible to anticipate  in charity and the search for peace.

In the capacity of a humble pilgrim of peace, apart from that of the Successor of Peter, Benedict XVI was graciously welcomed by Prince Ghazi into the Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque. With this Visit – the third of a Pope to a Muslim place of worship and the first to a mosque so recently inaugurated, as His Highness highlighted – the Pope continues a dialogue that is ever more timely and urgent. It was begun long ago and was intensified after the lecture at Regensburg, the events of which have shown to be a fruitful and important stage in a shared journey.

From the place of worship named after King Hussein – the same who welcomed Paul VI in his memorable Visit to the Holy Land – Benedict XVI  raised his voice to reject the theories of those who criticize  the religions, depicting them as a factor of division that would thus be better relegated to the private sphere. These critics however, point to the ever present need for a constant purification of the religions, so that they may remain faithful to their most authentic principles.

In this Muslims and Christians must collaborate, overcoming a difficult history of conflict, hostility and misunderstanding. This is exemplified in the positive model of Jordan and is indispensably urgent in Iraq, where it is necessary for Christians to see their right respected to peaceful coexistence with their fellow citizens who are Muslim.

The recognition of the common link of love of God and love of neighbour is fundamental for this to occur. As is the realization that reason leads to the identification of human dignity as the foundation of the rights that must be guaranteed to every woman and every man, without exception.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 21, 2019

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