Pope Benedict XVI urged greater respect for women Sunday at a historic Mass in the Middle East.
“Sadly, this God-given role of the dignity of women has not always been understood and esteemed,” the pontiff said on his first visit to Jordan as pope. The ceremony, being held at the Amman international stadium in the nation’s capital, comes two days after the pope arrived in the country as part of his weeklong visit to the Mideast to promote a good relationship between Muslims and Christians. It is the first papal visit to some of Christianity’s most holy places since Pope John Paul II made the pilgrimage in 2000. “My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community and to be treated to the leadership shown by his majesty, the king … in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam,” Benedict said Friday shortly after arriving in the city. Watch how Jordan residents feel about pontiff’s visit » Benedict gave a speech two years ago that caused friction between Muslims and Christians when he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said the teachings of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed were “evil and inhuman.” The remarks sparked an outcry from Muslims around the world, and the pope later apologized, saying the emperor’s words did not express his personal convictions. On the second day of his visit to the Middle East, the pope stressed harmony and unity. “Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history, so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God, faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and lift by the almighty decrees,” the pontiff said in an address at King Hussein Mosque in Amman. Benedict also spoke about Iraq’s Christians, asking the international community to “do everything possible to ensure that the ancient Christian community of that noble land has a fundamental right to peaceful coexistence with their fellow citizens.”
On Monday, the pope will fly to Tel Aviv to begin his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. He is scheduled to pay courtesy visits to Jerusalem’s Muslim grand mufti and two chief rabbis. The pontiff will return to Rome next Friday.