Pope builds bridges with Muslims and Jews

|PIC1|Pope Benedict XVI has promoted the cause of reconciliation between Christians and Jews on his first trip to the Holy Land as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Speaking on Mount Nebo in Jordan, where God showed Moses Canaan Land, the Pope said, "The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people.

"May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation."

Later the Pope is due to meet Muslim leaders in Amman as part of an effort to improve relations with Islam.

The Pope arrived in Jordan on Friday and said he came "as a pilgrim, to venerate holy places that have played such an important part in some of the key events of Biblical history".

He added that inter-faith dialogue was "very important for peace", and that the Church "is not a political force but a spiritual force which can contribute to the progress of the peace process".

The Pope also used his arrival as an opportunity to talk of the “deep respect” he has for the Muslim community and said that religious freedom is “a fundamental human right".

The Pope was previously criticised by the Muslim world in 2006 when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who described the teachings of Mohammed as “evil and inhuman”. The Pope later apologised for any misunderstandings or offence that he had caused.

Despite this, one of Jordan’s main political parties, the Islamic Action Front said that the Pope was not welcome because he had not apologised for his remarks.

King Abdullah of Jordan welcomed the Pope by stressing the "importance of co-existence and harmony between Muslim and Christian". He added that "voices of provocation, ambitious ideologies of division, threaten unspeakable suffering".

"We welcome your commitment to dispel the misconceptions and divisions that have harmed relations between Christians and Muslims ... It is my hope that together we can expand the dialogue we have opened," King Abdullah said.

There are around 200,000 Christians in Jordan out of a population of six million. On Monday the Pope is due to visit Israel.

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