4/03/2005

Papal Prayer


I remember when Pope John Paul II visited Syria in 2001. The Pope held a mass in Al-Abbasiyeen Stadium in Damascus and visited the Umayyad Mosque, becoming the first Catholic pontiff to enter a Muslim place of worship. In an address at the Mosque, in the presence of late Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, the Pope said:
"For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness [...] May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship, so that the Almighty may bless us with the peace which heaven alone can give. To the One, Merciful God be praise and glory for ever. Amen."
Later during his landmark visit, the Pope went to Quneitra, a town in the Golan Heights liberated from Israeli occupation in 1974. Standing in a small church that was burnt and ransacked by the Israelis, the Pope prayed for peace and justice in the Middle East:
"From this place, so disfigured by war, I wish to raise my heart and voice in prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the world [...] Lord, you speak words of peace to your people and to all who turn to you in their hearts. We pray to you for the peoples of the Middle East. Help them to break down the walls of hostility and division and to build together a world of justice and solidarity [...] May they be inspired to oneness of heart and mind, in working for a world that will be a true home for all its peoples. Salam! Salam! Salam!"
Today the church is still deserted as it has been for 38 years, still waiting for the Pope's prayer to be answered... May his soul rest in peace.

20 comments:

Natasha said...

Ayman,
Your post inspired me to write about the Pope's visit to Jordan. I will put it up shortly :) Thanks for the inspiration:)

Anonymous said...

People don't forget that it is one of the predecessor Popes, Pope Urban II who launched the crusades with the infamous Latin phrase 'Deus le veult'! This was to liberate the Levant (or if you prefer the Holy Land) from so-called infidel occupation. Just as the 'crusader kingdoms' were eventually defeated and dismantled so will the current occupations of Palestine and Iraq Inshallah (to paraphrase Pope Urban II)

Anonymous said...

Yes, although the above comments are true we must also acknowledge Pope John Paul's contribution to interfaith dialogue and understanding between Islam and Christianity. The late Pope publicly spoke out against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the global arrogance!
At the same time history shows that the Catholic church's relationship towards Arabs and Muslims has not always been as benign as some people imagine.
After all the Inquisition (the equivalent of the Abbasi period Mihna instigated by the Mutazilites) was responsible for expelling many Muslim Arabs from al-Andalus or FORCIBLY reconverting them back to Christianity or worse still killing and massacring them. It was also reponsible for doing all these things to many Spaniards who had embraced Muslim and Arab religion, culture and civilization! The Inquisition was after all instigated directly by the Pope and the Catholic church!

Anonymous said...

How can i wish peace on a person who was head of church while muslims were massacred in bosnia in the name christianity and he had nothing to say about it.And yes we will dismantle all foreign occupations inshallah.

Anonymous said...

I hope that people will come to understand that the catholic church is not static - it's a fluid, changing thing. The catholic church that compelled the crusades was peopled by those who are long dead. Today's catholic church are living beings who will acknowledge the errors of the past.

People will seek peaceful resolution and diplomacy over conflict in all contemporary matters, inshallah.

Omar said...

The Pope should be a role model for all religious men. I think he's such an open minded man, and that's what made so different from others.

a said...

I agree with you Omar. And as Anonymous 11:11 said, Pope John Paul
has publically and officially appoligised for the crimes committed by the crusaders and other wrongdoings by the Catholic Church. The best proof of his good-will and open mindness is his visit to the Ommayad mosque and holding a joint peace prayer with Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro.

Fadi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Fadi said...

To anonymous(s),
Gentlemen (I guess), it is really a pity that you guys are stuck back in history and not living up to the open-minded dialogue that this blog is all about.
If we make something that happened 1000 years ago our ideological guide, rather than remember it as a mere historic event, may God save us.
I am Christian Orthodox and I know that the Orthodox were treated badly by the Catholic church in the old times. But for me, that is just a historic fact, NOT A GRUDGE.
And this is not a defense of the Pop as it s a defense of us, the Arabs. If we keep reminiscing on stuff like that, maybe the Curds that Arabs treated badly, Southern Sudanese who are being killed by thousands every day, and all people who are affected by the current wave of terrorism under the name of Islam, although Islam has nothing to do with it, would look at us as barbaric 100 years from now. And maybe the French or Brits would still be hating the Germans till now, but they don't, and they will not. Because they are MATURE, and they have a sense of DIALOGUE. No people were not sinners at some point. And we, Arabs, would be holding our heads in the sand if we deny that.

Anonymous said...

as a Syrian christian, i ham proud of my religion and the ability to express my belief in Syria, we are fortunate that christians in Syria are well treated, and we should do our best to make the western countries especially the people in the U.S. to understand this important fact.
in the future, will post few pictures on this issue.

here are some interesting comments about Pope's of Syrian origin.
taken from http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=2741

The Syrian popes were: Evaristus (107), Anicetus (168), John V (687), Serguis I (701), Sisinnius (708), Constantine I (715), and Gregory III (732). I shall give brief biographical sketches of the Eastern popes among these who distinguished themselves in the government of the universal Church.


St. Anicetus (155-166) was an inhabitant of Hims, Syria and most likely was martyred under Marcus Aurelius. He is particularly noted for his efforts against the heresies of Valentine and Marcion. It was during his pontificate that St. Polycarp, the great Bishop of Smyrna, came to Rome in connection with the controversy about the date of Easter. His relics are kept now in the chapel of the Pontifical Spanish Institute and are venerated publicly with great ceremony on his annual feast day, April 17th.


John V (685-686), before his election, was the representative of the pope at Constantinople. He was a peacemaker and obtained tax exemption for the Roman domains of Sicily and Calabria from the Emperor of Constantinople.


Sergius I (687-701) came from a Syrian family, which had settled at Palermo, Sicily. Leo II appointed him the titular priest of the Church of St. Suzanna (he was responsible for its restoration). He championed the prerogatives of St. Peter against the Byzantine emperor Justinian II. As pope, he encouraged missionary work in France, England and Ireland. (He baptized the King of Wessex— Caedwalla.) He introduced into the Latin Liturgy, the prayer "Agnus Dei" at the moment of the breaking of the bread; he also solemnized the celebration of the four principal feasts of the Blessed Virgin: The Nativity, the Purification, the Annunciation, and the Dormition.


John VII (705-707) was a patron of the arts, responsible for the early mosaics of St. Peter's Basilica and the frescoes at St. Mary Antiqua, the finest extant examples of the art of his time.


Constantine I (708-715) was a champion of papal rights against the tyranny of the Byzantine emperors and against the Monothelite heresy, which taught that there was only one will in Christ. He was the first to wear the Tiara of Eastern origin. Most likely the lozenge shaped Greek "Epigonation" was adopted at this time. The pope alone among Western bishops wears it.


Gregory III (731-741) was a Benedictine of Syrian origin. He was noted for his linguistic abilities and his subtle sense of humor. A great missionary pope, he organized the religious structure of Germany under St. Boniface as Metropolitan. In 732, he condemned the Iconoclastic heresy and proclaimed his veneration for the holy images and relics by building a beautiful oratory, dedicated to all the saints, at Rome. It was he who obtained the political sovereignty of Rome (with himself as temporal ruler) from Pepin the Short. This sovereignty existed until 1870.


Zacharias (741-752) was last but not least of the great Eastern popes. He was a mild, meek man of great diplomacy and administration. An accomplished linguist, he translated into Greek the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. He was also a peacemaker with the emperor and furthered the work of St. Boniface in the final conversion of Germany.

Anonymous said...

The relationship between Muslims and the various Eastern Orthodox churches (whether Greek, Russian, Serbian or any other branch) is no better than between the Catholics and the Muslims. The most recent examples are the massacres and rapes of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo by the Serbs (who are Orthodox) and a similar thing committed by the Russians (who are also Orthodox) in Chechnya RIGHT NOW! Russian Orthodox hostility to Muslims is a long one: They are responsible for transporting thousands of Muslims to Siberia and leaving them to die there as well as the Russian Orthodox church's hostility to Islam and Muslim rule in general! The Greeks and other followers of the Orthodox are well known for committing many massacres of Muslims in the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire was slowly collapsing! The Orthodox can hardly be described to be any better than the Catholics - only an ignoramus would think that!

Ayman said...

Let us not make tragedies of the past divide us today. I did not say that we should pray for Urban II, Richard the Lion Heart, or the Spaniards who massacred Muslims and Jews, Christianized them or forced them to leave. But Pope John Paul II was a man of peace, who worked for dialogue between Islam and Christianity, for understanding, mutual respect and forgiveness. He supported the Palestinian cause and firmly opposed war on Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Muslim Arab, I pray that Allah bless his soul.

We should not consider religion as the motive of every crime committed against Muslims anywhere in the world. The Muslims of Chechnya are not being killed in the name of Christianity; and even if this were the case, that does not mean that all Christians should be blamed for this. If we should blame Christianity for crimes committed by people who happened to be Christians (not true Christians, I believe), we should not complain about racism and hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs in the US. Is it right to describe September 11 attacks as a massacre of Christians by Muslims? Is it right to blame Islam for the barbaric killings of millions of Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century?

Here in Syria, Muslims and Christians (both Catholic and Orthodox) have always lived in peace and will always live in peace, inshallah.

"And you will find the nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] those who say: 'We are Christians.' That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not arrogant." (The Holy Quran 5:82)

Anonymous said...

O you who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians as Auliya', they are but Auliya' of each other. And if any amongst you take them (as Auliya'), then surely he is one of them.
(Holy Qur'an Surah 5, Verse 51)

amr said...

Anonymous, what are you trying to get to? Your quotation from the Holy Quran should not be used in the context of this discussion. Are you suggesting that Muslims shouldn't deal with and make friends with Christians!!??

Islam taught us to treat Christians with the utmost respect.

This teaching is applied perfectly in Damascus. I am pround to be born in a city where people get to enjoy both Eid and Christmas celebrations.. don't you think this is one thing that makes Damascus unique?

Anonymous said...

I partly agree with you amr but are you saying that Jews should not be treated with the same respect that Christians are - after all they are both ahl al kitab!

Anonymous said...

To anonymous,
I agree with Amr. I live abroad and since 9/11 I have problems to explain my religion to people who see Islam like you see christians and people like you push us backward and embarras us. Why do you choose from the Kor'an what you want and refuse what you don't want? We have a beatiful faith so we don't need to reject others to prove ourselfs. Don't be fanatic.

amr said...

Dear anonymous 1:13, my arguement extends to Jews. The only reason i didn't mention them is because this post is about Pope John Paul, a Christian and the examples you gave were of Christians.

coldipeccio said...

Dear Anonymous 9/41 PM
I'm really sorry but you're totally wrong. If there were one voice against the serbian-croatian plot against Bosnian muslims, it was John-Paul II ones. But who eared him ? It's always the same history since WWII...
By the way, thank you Ayman for you're fresh air coming from Damascus. Have a look on renseignement.blogspot.com. It's in french, but it sometimes talks about our beloved Middle East.

Anonymous said...

Not meaning to offend anyone who has put forth reasons why one religion has been mistreated by another religion or why this group hates that group but it is time to consider the poor soul that must die fighting in these wars which never seem to end. It is time for the leader of the world to stop placing stumbling blocks on the path to peace. I am ignorant of history and have little education but when thousands of people die fighting a war that has gone on for hundreds of years it is a good indication that there is something is wrong with those leaders which have been unable to learn anything from history. People should not go hungry while the leaders of the world spend billions of dollars on weapons. I am not saying we should look the other way when someone kills another person.
I am saying that there must be a way for the people of the world to live in peace. It is time for all the people of the world to demand an end to the violence before hate, which many religions teach, destroys the good that men has accomplished.

I am trying to live by Christ's teachings and I copied the following words from a source on the Internet because they were against violence and they agreed with many of my thoughts and beliefs:

"War will not bring peace only common sense and listening to the words of Christ ?

"But go, and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'" Matt. 9:13. If one perhaps missed the message the first time - it is again repeated later in chapter 12 verse 7: "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice".

Jesus came to give us the astounding and revolutionary message that Love and Mercy are the fulfillment of the Law.

Moses brought the Law and Death. Jesus brought Love and Life. Moses taught the patriarchal concept of justice: "an eye for an eye". Jesus taught just the opposite, that we should love our enemies. This is the fundamental difference between the Old and New Testaments. How many Christians, still haven't heard the news?

If, in the true spirit of Jesus' ethical teaching, Christians would re-direct the torrential current of the Earth's resources that are presently being wasted on instruments of mass destruction, and establish organizations to feed, clothe and house all the peoples of the planet, the motives for war would simply disappear overnight. Many people may feel this proposal is too simplistic of an approach. But feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless is effective, precisely because it is simplistic. It is the most fundamental of our responsibilities toward one another.The message of Jesus starts with the basics, that is why it is so powerful and universal in its application. No one can bring the "good news to the poor" while the poor are starving to death, or "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" while children are living in the streets. At a time when the social and political unification of the planet is inevitable if the human species is to survive, only such universal concepts as found in the Beatitudes can serve as a guiding light for the foundation of a true planetary culture.

'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.'"

"The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is', because the Kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21.

Here, we have finally arrived at the very heart of the teachings and mission of Jesus. Jesus proclaims that God is within you; that within your very nature there resides a Divine Nature, and that Salvation comes through loving the indwelling God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength. For then, and only then can the second part of the commandment be fulfilled: to "love your neighbor as yourself



Many people commonly believe that the Kingdom of God somehow exists in linear time, expecting that at some point in the future it will suddenly come into being. Jesus positively refutes this expectation.

"Truly, I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom." Matt. 16:28; Mark 8:39 & 13:30.

"His disciples said to Him, 'When will the repose of the dead come about, and when will the new world come?' He said to them, "What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it." The Gospel of Thomas verse 51.



"His disciples said to him, 'When will the Kingdom come?' Jesus said, 'It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying Here it is , or There it is. Rather the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the Earth, and men do not see it.'" The Gospel of Thomas, verse 113.

Violence as a legitimate means of conflict resolution whether between individuals or between nations, will no longer be considered acceptable by all thinking citizens of the world. This will serve to liberate a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources that in the past was religiously tithed to the military industrial priesthood."

I believe that is possible for the leaders of the world to call a halt to the destruction and wars. The question is why hasn't it happened ? Why do people want to kill other people ? Can anything be gained by the death, starvation and misery that is suffered by the families and friends of those killed in a war which never ends? How long before the people of the world rise up and demand an end to this violence? Must you mother, sister, brother and fathers be destroyed by the agnoy which is brought by war before you see the light?

It seems that many religions teach peace yet behind many wars their is a religious leader preaching revenge.

Anonymous said...

Treat Christians with respect and scorn the Jews? I am not either Christian or Jewish but I don't see freedom of religion in a predominantly Muslim countries. Why allow new converts to Muslims but kill off or condemn those who want to leave Islam. Double standard! Read faithfreedom.org , I don't care if it will change any or ur minds but there's so much denials and "blind" faith in many of you....