Pope Benedict XVI tells Middle East Christians to persevere
Conflict and persecution from radical Muslims is forcing Christians to flee from the Middle East . Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the Christians in the region to preserve in their faith despite the difficulties they face.
05/11/2009 Jordan (TIMESONLINE)-Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians in the Middle East to hold on to their faith and traditions at an open-air Mass attended by 50,000 worshippers.
He told them to work with other religions to enrich their daily lives and counter violent ideologies. “Be faithful to your roots,” he said yesterday in his homily at Amman ’s largest football stadium.
“Fidelity to your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church’s mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage — the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition.”
Crowds of Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Iraqi Christians shouted “Benedictus . . . Benedictus” as he arrived. He responded in Arabic, saying: “As-salaam aleikum”, or peace to you.
The Pope, 82, blessed about 1,200 boys and girls, including 40 Iraqi refugees, as well as some American children who had flown in for the event, which Jordan is using to promote itself as a destination for Christian pilgrims. The country is home to many Christian holy sites, including where Jesus was baptised and Moses was buried.
He said that Jordan had taken in more than one million Iraqi refugees since the start of the war, including 40,000 Christians fleeing persecution.
For years the Church has been alarmed by the declining presence of Christians in the Holy Land and the wider Middle East . It says that they have been driven out by war, economic hardship and the growing influence of Muslim fundamentalist groups.
According to the official statistics, Christians now form less than 2 per cent of Jordan ’s overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim population, down from about 30 per cent in the Fifties.