by Rula Samain | May 21, 2014 | 23:56

AMMAN — The message Pope Francis sends by inviting a rabbi and a Muslim scholar on his pilgrimage trip to the Holy Land is to confirm that religion is not the cause of conflicts in the Middle East, but rather a part of the solution, said a Vatican diplomat.

Christian unity is another key goal of the pilgrimage, he said. 

Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican ambassador in Amman, told The Jordan Times in an e-mail interview that such an initiative holds message to both Christians and Muslims.

The Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See said that Pope Francis’ trip is to honour the historical pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land, remembering the historic meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople after almost 1,000 years of division and reciprocal excommunication.

He added that the motto of this visit is taken from “the last prayer of Jesus: ‘That they all may be one’”, which is a “prayer of unity, as well as a gift that requires a disposition, a readiness to receive it, and effort to live the commandment of Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you”.

“The Pope is inviting us [Christians] to bring down the barriers and the prejudices that conditions our relationships with the members of other religions, and even though we [Muslims and Christians] are different, we are one in our common humanity,” said the envoy.

“It is a message for those who want to listen.”

Lingua said that the Muslim scholar, Omar Abboud, will join the papal delegation in Amman, while the rabbi, Abraham Skorka, will accompany the delegation during the Pope’s Bethlehem visit.

Travelling with His Holiness on his one-day trip are 30 cardinals along with 70 members of the press.

The ambassador said that while in the Holy Land, the pontiff is scheduled to spend his first night in Amman, having a private breakfast and dinner, and sleeping in a room close to the chapel at the Vatican embassy.

He added that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI stayed in the same residence.

Ambassador Lingua said that the political side of His Holiness’ trip is that the pontiff is coming on “a pilgrimage of peace”.

“He is here (the Middle East) to support those who are  working daily for building a peaceful society, possible only if we stretch our hands to our neighbours, asking or offering forgiveness, instead condemning others.”

The Apostolic Nunciature said that at the beginning of the Arab Spring, there was hope for positive change to those who sought peace, but the grass-roots movements were “robbed by those who do not wish for peace, the common good and fear of change”.

He added that Pope Francis sends a message to the youth: “Please do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! 

Do not let hope be stolen.”

He said that the Arab Spring has turned to be Arab winter, expressing hope for more justice, and people’s participation in building the society.

“I think that the positive aspect of the Arab Spring can be summarised with the word participation, which implies responsibility, while the negative aspect can be considered as an outcome of fear, a consequence of the narrowness of mind and a  suspicious mentality.”