Patriarch’s greeting to pope at Mass in Amman

Here is the prepared text of  the greeting to Pope Benedict XVI by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem at Mass this morning in Amman’s International Stadium. Amman has Catholics of many rites, but the Jerusalem patriarchate’s territory includes Latin-rite Catholics in Jordan.

Holy Father,

Jordan today with all its citizens, Muslims and Christians, together with the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, cardinals, patriarchs, bishops and Catholic clergy of the Middle East, with all of our dear guests and friends who came from the neighboring Arab countries and from all over the world to pray today with your holiness, to express their devotion and love, proudly welcome you along with your esteemed delegation: Ahlan wasahlan, you are most welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, our dearly beloved homeland.

As I humbly stand before you, on behalf of all the Jordanians in general and the Catholic community in particular, I cannot help but evoke the exceptional ties between the Holy See and Jordan, especially between our dearest royal family and the successors of St. Peter. We are anxious today to show you our Arab Jordanian hospitality and warmth, hoping you will enjoy your stay with us as much as we are enjoying it.

Your holiness, on top of being the authoritative voice of truth, love, freedom and peace in the world, we dearly welcome as the successor of St. Peter, commissioned by the Lord, to strengthen your brothers in faith and your brothers in humanity; and we look up at you, as our beloved Holy Father, firmly believing, this visit will confirm us in faith.

Holy Father, God has his own ways. Last week was Vocations’ Promotion Day for the universal church. On this happy occasion, we need to update you about the vocations situation in the Holy Land. I admit that we are facing some vocations problems — for the first time ever in its history, our major seminary in Beit Jala is fully occupied, it is indeed jam-packed and we had to start expanding and enlarging our facilities and dorms to accommodate the extra numbers of seminarians. Please, your holiness, join us as we raise our thankful prayers to the Lord for these blessings, as we join you in your intention prayer: “that the laity and the Christian communities may be responsible promoters of priestly and religious vocations.”

It is an amazing grace! Despite emigration and despite our small and dwindling numbers in this Holy Land, we have abundant vocations. Most of them come from our parochial schools in Jordan, where political stability, which is chiefly the result of prolonged wise governance, is an appropriate milieu for the growth of family values, where these vocations come from. Thus, with a joyful and enthusiastic spirit, together with the universal church, on the 19th of next month we will begin the year dedicated to the priesthood.

From these same Arab Christian families stemmed the Rosary Sisters congregation, the only local one. On behalf of the Latin Patriarchate and of the Rosary Sisters, we are grateful to your holiness for the future beatification of their founder, Sister Marie Alphonsine. Indeed the Rosary Sisters are our main partners, collaborating with other generous religious congregations in our mission in the Holy Land. For all of them, we ask your benediction.

Your holiness, it is our deepest pride that in the last five years our Latin Patriarchate has given two bishops to North Africa, and is fully ready to collaborate with our mother Church in Rome wherever there is a need.

Holy Father, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is well known for its welcoming and friendly nature. Evidence of this is the millions of refugees, together with Asian and foreign workers, who have been welcomed onto this blessed soil. Recently, in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq, more than a million Iraqis took refuge in Jordan. Almost 40,000 of them are Christians. We know Holy Father how much the issue of the world refugees concerns you personally. We would like to assure you that our diocese is doing its utmost to provide them with pastoral needs. Though extremely challenging, their presence has been a wonderful opportunity for our people and government to live out the beatitudes and to put into practice toward them our traditional Jordanian warmth and solidarity.

Holy Father, successor of Peter, our dearest pastor, from the bottom of our happy hearts we say to you again Ahalan wasahlan, welcome to Jordan. Please, pray for us and bless our countries and our peoples.

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