CELEBRATING Mass on his first day in the Holy Land, Pope Francis said hope for peace in a region torn by sectarian conflicts comes from faith in God.
“The way of peace is strengthened if we realise that we are all of the same stock and members of one human family, if we never forget that we have the same heavenly father and are all his children, made in his image and likeness,” the pope said on May 24 in his homily at Amman’s International Stadium.
“Diversity of ideas and persons should not trigger rejection or prove an obstacle, for variety always enriches.
“We ought, therefore, to show concrete signs of humility, fraternity, forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Peace is not something which can be bought.
“It is a gift to be sought patiently and to be crafted through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives.
“Let us ask the spirit to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so that we may overcome our differences rooted in political thinking, language, culture and religion.
“Let us ask him to anoint our whole being with the oil of mercy, which heals the injuries caused by mistakes, misunderstandings and disputes.”
Before the pope’s arrival, clusters of yellow and white balloons representing the Vatican flag colors were released in the sky above the stadium, followed by those of the Jordanian flag — white, red, black and green — amid the cheering crowd.
As he arrived, the pope embraced children, the sick and others who ventured closed to a fence to catch his attention.
Before he spoke, white doves were released into the sky, adding to participants’ excitement.
The pope acknowledged the presence in the congregation of “many Christian refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq,” asking them to take his greetings to their families and communities, “and assure them of my closeness.”
An estimated 1.3 million refugees now live in Jordan, alongside a permanent population of 6.4 million.
The pope was scheduled to meet with young refugees following the Mass, after a visit to a traditional site of Jesus’ baptism near the Jordan River.
Pope Francis also acknowledged the approximately 1400 Jordanian children making their first Communion at the Mass.
The children were dressed in white, with many of the boys wearing baseball caps in the gold and white colors of the Vatican flag.
Miram Dabbaneh was excited that her 9-year-old son was among those receiving his first Communion.
“It’s a blessing for Jordan and the Middle East for (Pope Francis) to come,” she said.
“In Jordan, we Christians feel safe because of the presence of His Majesty King Abdullah.”
At the end of Mass, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem addressed the pope in Italian, calling the Catholic Church a source of unity in Jordan, both among Christians and the general population.
But he lamented the “true human haemorrhage” of Christian emigration to other Arab countries and North America.