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5/6/2009 2:18 AM
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Jordan's King Abdullah says
Pope's visit will be
a stimulus to peace

Interview by
Antonio Ferrari
Translated from

May 5, 2009

Benedict XVI received King Abdullah and Queen Rania in Castel Gandolfo in September 2005.

AMMAN - "I will be a pilgrim for peace".

Pope Benedict XVI's message to the peoples of the Holy Land was received with trepidation [WHY????] in the Jordan hospital, where on Friday, the Pope begins the most delicate and difficult mission so far in his Pontificate.

It will start in an atmosphere of good will and concord, but it may all go downhill from there. [How odd to begin a report in these pessimistic there!]

The four days (exactly the same number of days he will spend in Israel-Palestine) that will be spent by the head of the Catholic Church in the first Arab country he is visiting, are obviously laden with expectations, as expressed by the Pope himself in the words he has used to describe the themes of his visit: reconciliation, hope, and peace.

But Jordan's King Abdullah II, with royal discretion, says he will not speak in terms of expectations.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera before leaving for Egypt and Germany, the King said: "His Holiness is our guest. That being so, we in Jordan will not speak of expectations but rather of our best wishes that this spiritual journey will have full success".

Your Majesty, you have always said that your kingdom is a land of coexistence and tolerance, that it is the very symbol of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians.
It has always been our objective, and it is our constant commitment.

To welcome the Pope, as we did his predecessor in 2000, is for us a great honor adn reason to be proud.

On Sunday, for the Pope;s Mass, not only the Christians of Jordan will be there, but Christians from teh entire region. We expect that there will be pilgrims from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and, hopefully, from the West Bank.

It will be an event of great spiritual intensity and a sign of our common commitment to bring ever closer together the three great monotheistic religions which have their roots in this land.

As I said, teh Pope is our guest, so we do not speak of expectations. But his words will be a stimulus addressed to all of us to urge us to make haste along the road to peace.

Peace among the peoples or peace among the leaders?
In teh United states and in Europe, leaders feel as we do. Religious conflicts must be avoided, particularly fundamentalist ones. Jordan has always maintained that churches, mosques and synagogues should create 'a common world', and therefore, they have the great responsibility of avoiding conflicts among religions and peoples.

Look, in Israel, the people don't believe in the two-state solution because they think their own leaders do not believe in it. And in Palestine, it is widely believed that such a solution will never see the light of day. And yet, 85% of both Israelis and Palestinians support the need for a negotiated peace.

We all know that only by having two separate states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, can lead to peace. We have many reasons - serious ones - for concern. What Israel is doing about the settlements [Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory] and with the Muslims and Christian properties in teh Holy Land is not at all reassuring, but rather serious and dangerous.

What should be done then?
It requires courage, determination and a long-range vision. It is a time when the leaders concerned should really give peace an opportunity.

Benedict XVI is arriving at a particular time - there is a new American administration, and there seem to be hopes that peace negotiations may resume.
I recently met with both president Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. The US is clear about two things: that it is in their national interest to reach a two-state solution urgently, and that the steps must take place within an overall context that would include dialog between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, Israel and the other Muslim nations [besides the dialog with Palestinians].

I believe Obama understands the regional context very well. If we cannot capitalize on these elements, then the risks will simply multiply.It is impossible to resume negotiations in a void.

Your Majesty, it appears Barack Obama availed well of your visit, drawing from your experience and knowledge of the region. He made his most significant statements about teh Middle East after meeting with you in teh White House.
We received a very warm welcome, and my conversation with the President was not subjected to a time limit. I met him before [when Obama visited teh Middle East during the presidential campaign] and he wants to reach a solution as soon as possible. [Good luck to him! So did Regan, Carter, Bush-1, Clinton adn Bush-2!] He is very hopeful. He will be meeting soon with the Palestinian President, the Egyptian President and the Israeli Prime Minister.

The extreme delicacy of the moment as well as the need not to waste any more time are equally clear. After these meetings, particularly the one with Netanyahu, then the United States will have a clearer strategy.

What do they intend? Is it the two-state solution under the Saudi plan of 2002 [in which the 97 Muslim nations will normalize their relations with Israel in return for Israel's withdrawal from all the territories they occupied after the 1967 War]?

Che cosa si aspetta? La soluzione dei due Stati e l'accettazione del piano sau­dita del 2002, che prevede la normalizza­zione dei rapporti con Israele di 57 Pae­si musulmani in cambio del ritiro da tut­ti i territori occupati nel 1967?
I would not presume to tell the United States what to do. But I do think that the possibility of finding an overall solution is in view. The two-state objective should be firmly in place within this year.

We have discussed this with the Us, we will continue to discuss it with the European leaders who share our hopes and fears.

If nothing of the sort happens in 2009-2010, then the risk will be very great indeed that the enemies of peace in the region [Iran?] will provoke greater tragedies.

If everything goes well. do you see a date when a negotiated peace could be reached?
We all know ti's dangerous to speculate on dates. But I think the will to reach a settlement would be clear pretty soon - without room for misunderstanding.

[From his mouth to God's ear, insh'Allah! But Netanyahu is more hawkish and less likely to concede anything than any of the previous Israeli leaders, and how can one trust Hamas whose charter clearly states its goal to 'eliminate Israel'?]

Abdullah II of Jordan, born in 1962, and King since 1999, when his father Hussein died. The Hashemite royal dynasty was established after World War I when Abdullah I proclaimed himself king. [The Hashemites trace their origin to a great grandfather of the prophet Mohammed and therefore consider themselves to be direct descendants of the prophet]. In 1999, Abdullah II married Rania al Yasin, a Palestinian born in Kuwait. They have four children.

Here's a religious 'perspective' about the first stage of the Pope's pilgrimage. It is the transcript (provided) of a videoclip from H20, a multimedia and multilingual Catolic news resource that I haveneglected to tap since it was set up a year ago::

Jordan ‘not a transit route’
to Israel for Pope

Jordan has witnessed three papal visits in its modern history: Pope Paul VI visited Jordan in 1964, Pope John Paul II in 2000, and now Pope Benedict XVI will begin the apostolic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Jordan.

But Jordan is not a transit route, but rather a sacred destination -- a state with a living Christian community.

Everyone is anticipating Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land. What is its significance? What are its objectives? What would be its impact and consequences to the situation in the Middle East?

In this interview, the official spokesman to the media on behalf of the Catholic Church in Jordan and editor of Catholic website speaks about the importance of the Holy Father's visit to Jordan.

"The Pope's visit is important from many points of view. First, to confirm the Christian presence in Jordan. We have, thank God, a good number of Christians from various denominations of Christianity -- the majority belong to the Orthodox Church -- and there is also the Catholic Church, which has, in all branches, more than eighty or ninety thousand Catholic citizens.

"But the Pope is not only coming for Catholics, but also to unite Christians. Secondly, there is a formal relationship between Jordan and the Vatican since 1994 and these relations have been described as good and friendly.

"This year, 2009, we celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Jordan and the Holy See, a relationship that is destined for further cooperation to build peace, especially since Jordan is a moderate voice in the peace process in the Middle East, particularly in the two hot spots: Iraq and Palestine.”

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/6/2009 7:46 AM]
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