By Mariaelena Finessi
ROME, OCT. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- When Benedict XVI made his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2009, Jordan was his first stop.
But many pilgrims overlook Jordan, excluding it from official Holy Land tours. Still, it is one of the nations that falls under the jurisdiction of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and according to the patriarch, the importance of Jordan needs to be recognized.
Archbishop Fouad Twal, himself of Jordanian birth, spoke of his homeland at the exhibit “A Look at Christians of the Middle East,” being sponsored by the Custody of the Holy Land during the synod on the Middle East, which is under way through Sunday.
The archbishop said that in Jordan “is the most consistent portion of our local Christian community, grown numerically with the addition in 1948 and in 1967 of so many Palestinian refugees.”
The result is that today the country has 65 parishes and 77,000 faithful.
In fact, Archbishop Twal noted, “80% of our seminarians are of Jordanian origin.”
The patriarch asserted that Christians of the Holy Land must be at the center of the Church’s attention: They are “descendants of the first community formed by Jesus Christ himself,” he reminded, and never before has it been so much the “Church of Calvary” such that the presence of Christians in the Holy Land can be read as “a mission, a vocation,” called by God to “bear this cross.”
For its part, Jordan is an example of dialogue and religious coexistence, Archbishop Twal continued. He pointed to the charitable work done by the Christian community there, though it is a minority. Jordan assists something like 500,000 refugees, especially Iraqis, and aspires to be a model for the whole of the Middle East area, he said.
It was also in Jordan, the prelate continued, that the best reactions to the Pope’s Regensburg address could be found. There, there was an openness that culminated in Benedict XVI’s visit to the mosque of Amman, where he was received explicitly as Successor of Peter.
Archbishop Twal was accompanied during his address by a leader of Caritas-Jordan, Monsignor Sayegh e a Huda Muhasher.
The decisive role of Christians in Jordan’s civil society is found in that which Benedict XVI defined as “the dialogue of works,” Muhasher said. “There are so many, and as laity we have a great role in them.”
He said Caritas has addressed all the most serious national emergencies, including that of the immigrants.
“We have two charitable fronts,” the Caritas director said, “one for Jordanians, for whom Caritas was founded, and one for all the foreigners who arrive in the country and are in need of help.”
And being a laboratory of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, between citizens and foreigners, “the greater part of funds received in the last years has been allocated to Iraqi refugees and not to Jordanians,” he added.
Among Caritas’ many projects — it is the only organization that can enter prisons, for example — there is one that Muhasher highlighted: a care center for disabled children and their families.
There, he said, parents are “taught how to address and live with handicaps.”
The Caritas leader spoke of beginning every activity with prayer, “without showy gestures but each one in the silence of his heart.”