POPE CELEBRATES FIRST MASS IN HOLY LAND
March 21st (EWTNews) The Pope began the second day on his historic
pilgrimage to the Holy Land by celebrating Mass at the Amman Jordan
stadium under a canopy in the Papal colors of yellow and white.
Amman is the capital of Jordan and is the
largest Christian gathering in a mainly Muslim country. Christians
make up 6 percent of Jordan's 4.8 million inhabitants and fewer than
half of those are Catholic. Joining those gathered today for Mass are
about 10,000 Christians exiled from Iraq, as well as, approximately
2,000 eight and nine-year-olds from all corners of Jordan who made
their first communion at the hands of 15 bishops who celebrated the
Mass with the Pope.
As the Supreme Pontiff entered the stadium in
the popemobile, the crowd of 50,000 waved flags and cheered in both
English and Arabic.
The ceremony began with songs being sung by a
choir composed of both Christians and Muslims followed by a welcome by
His Beatitude Michel Sabbah. Dressed in red vestments, celebrating the
martyrdom of John the Baptist who is the Patron Saint of Jordan, the
first words pronounced by His Holiness after the sign of the cross
were "Peace be with you" in Arabic.
Throughout the Mass, many languages were used
(Greek, Arabic, Latin, English) by the people participating which
reflects the universality of the Church for all people. At the
beginning of the celebration, water taken from the Jordan River was
blessed for the sprinkling of the faithful by the Pope.
The Holy Father began his homily with the
familiar passage, "A voice cries out in the wilderness, prepare
ye the way of the Lord!" (Isaiah 40"3) reminding us of the
"Godís desire to teach and save His people." Even today,
the Pope himself a pilgrim tracing the steps of Jesus Christ, reminded
those gathered that the whole Church and especially the Christian
community in Jordan that "we all are united in a pilgrimage of
conversion and penance, of reconciliation and peace." The Pope
traced the steps of salvation "through a history stretching back
to Abraham". Echoing the theme the Holy Father started on Monday,
he used the story of Abraham and Sarah who had no children or land of
their own, to emphasize "they put their faith in God, believing
and hoping against hope." And "however impossible it
seemed" their prayers were answered and "Isaac was born to
Sarah and Abraham received land."
"The history of salvation is a Covenant of
love between God and man Ė a Covenant which demands obedience but
promises liberation. The Ten Commandments are the divine pedagogy of
love, indicating the only sure path to the fulfillment of our deepest
longing: the human spiritís irrepressible search for goodness, truth
and harmony." Then the Holy Father emphasized that the Covenant
and Law received by Moses from God would live on forever.
Addressing the Bishops and priests, the Holy
Father encouraged them to "put your trust in the Lord and grow
closer to Him in prayer." To the Religious women and men, he
challenged them "to not be afraid to take your proper place and
responsibility in the Church and be brave witnesses to the
To the Motherís on this Motherís Day in
Jordan he invited them "to be builders of a new civilization of
love" and to teach their families "the ways of harmony and
peace." To the young people, he asked them "to help
transform the world around you, by giving the best of yourselves in
the service of others" and lastly, to the 2000 children making
their First Holy Communion, he shared with them that "Jesus is
your best friend, stay close to Him."
After his homily, the crowd broke into cheers of
"John Paul II, we love you!"
At the end of the Mass the Pope blessed three
cornerstones which will be used in the construction of a Maronite
Church, a Syrian Catholic Church and the "Regina Pacis"
The Holy Father began his weeklong journey in
the footsteps of Moses and Jesus in Jordan on Monday. After todayís
Mass, he will take a helicopter ride to Wadi al-Kharrar on the east
bank of the Jordan River, the site where Christ was baptized by John
the Baptist, according to Jordan. Then in the late afternoon he will
journey to Israel on the second leg of the pilgrimage. Pope John Paul
II will be the second Pope in history to go to Jerusalem.