00 5/8/2009 7:11 AM

Prince behind 'A Common Word'
to host the Pope on his visit
to the baptismal site of Jesus

ROME, April 8 (Translated from ASCA) - During his visit to Jordan on May 8-11, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, who started the initiative (and is the primary signatory) for the October 2007 letter A Common Word initially signed by 138 Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals, and is one of the closest advisers to his cousin, King Abdullah II of Jordan.

This was announced by the Jordanian Minister of Tourism at a news conference in Jordan's embassy to Italy today.

Prince Ghazi, born in 1966, was educated in Princeton and Cambridge, with degrees in literature and in medieval and modern languages. He is also the chairman of the Royal Aal-Al Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought based in Amman, the umbrella organization for A COMMON WORD.

The prince will be accompanying the Pope when he visits Bethany beyond the Jordan, thought to be the site of Jesus's Baptism. Prince Ghazi was the principal sponsor of the construction there of a baptism center for Christians, which he inaugurated last March along with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Jordan can be a model for religious tolerance and inter-religious dialog," said Madame al Khatib, who met newsmen after meeting the Pope this morning following the General Audience.

"Our Constitution provides for freedom of worship and religion, and many of our high functionaries are involved in inter-religious dialog", she pointed out.

The Pope will be visiting Jordan before proceeding to Israel and the Palestinian territories during his May 8-15 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his first as Pope.

Can anyone hazard a guess what is contained in the gift chest presented by the minister to the Pope? They look like chains and ropes of gold to me! (It could also be 'straw' packing for something breakable.)

Somehow, I like the idea of having the Pope wear his pectoral crosses on a chain given to him by a Muslim (especially since Arab goldsmiths generally use only 24-karat gold), just as for years he wore a pectoral cross that belonged to the father of a Greek Orthodox friend of his.


It turns out that tomorrow's issue (4/9/09) of L'Osservatore Romano also carries a story about the Jordanian minister with a completely different angle, and without any mention of Prince Ghazi. The picture that OR uses was obviously taken before the picture it released to the wire services used with the story above

Jordanian minister tells Pope
so many Muslims are awaiting his visit

Translated from
the 4/9/09 issue of

"In Jordan, the Muslims are awaiting the Pope as much as the Christians", said the Jordanian Minister for Tourism and Antiquities
Madame Maha Khatib, who was at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square yesterday.

After the catechesis and his multilingual greetings to the faithful, Pope Benedict XVI was able, as is customary, to meet some of the pilgrims, including sick persons and newlyweds, with tickets allowing them to be near the Pope when he walks about to greet the faithful.

Among them was Minister Khatib, who was accompanied by engineer Rustom Moukhjian, an Orthodox Christian in charge of the archeological site thought to be the place where Jesus was baptized (Bethany beyond the Jordan) and by Tayseer Ammary, a Catholic adviser to the tourism ministry.

The three are among the principal members of the organizing committee for Jordan's official welcome to the Pope, who, one month from now, will land in Amman, the Jordanian capital, on the first stage of his week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

"We are here," she said, "to thank the Pope for the honor he renders us by visiting our country. In the name of the sovereigns, of the government, and all the Jordanian people, we wish to assure the Pope that Jordan is doing everything to assure a worthy and warm welcome for him."

Madame Khatib said that in Jordan, Benedict XVI "will be able to see with his own eyes a nation where the faithful of various religions live together peacefully - a model for the whole Middle East".

The Jordanian group later met with Mons. Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with other states.

There were some 40,000 pilgrims at St. Peter's Square yesterday. Many of them were young people - seminarians, vocational groups, university students, such as those of the new Sophia University Institution. This was founded in December 2007 with the approval of the Vatican, by the Focolari movement's Chiara Lubich a few months before she died. Its first student group represents 16 countries.

Sophia graduates will receive a diploma of specialty in the fundamentals and perspectives of a culture of unity. The institution was a concrete response to Benedict XVI's challenge "to widen the horizon of reason in the dialog between cultures and scientific disciplines while bringing the light of Christ to the world".

More than 4000 youths from 32 countries were also present as participants in UNIV 2009, an annual meeting of university students inspired by the spiritual ideals of St. Jose Escriva de Balaguer, who founded Opus Dei.

This is the 42nd year of the international meeting held in Rome during Holy Week, this year on the theme "Universitas: knowledge without frontiers".

A special group of children and adolescents from Naples are wards of a foundation that takes care of young school dropouts. Said their guardian, Don Luigi Merola: "They are aged between 6 to 14. Many of them would otherwise end up being exploited by organized crime. We try to give them the right schooling and train them eventually in work skills so they can be, as Don Bosco loved to say, honest citizens and good Christians."

And Mark, a 28-year-old Australian, wearing a kangaroo pelt over his clothes, presented the Pope with a 'message stick', a traditional carved staff that the Australian aborigines use to transmit important messages or to communicate with high-ranking personages.

Mark's gift to the Pope however was inscribed with the logo of the Sydney WYD and figures of characteristic Australian animals. He said he wanted to thank the Pope again for coming to Australia.

Mark belongs to the Wiradjuri tribe and was at Barangaroo wharf with them to welcome Benedict XVI on July 17 last year.

"I am a teacher," he says, "and my students have great memories of the days they spent with their contemporaries from all over the world."