May 12, 2009
. This incident almost eclipsed the Pope's efforts to encourage greater trust among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
It happened during the Pope’s meeting with representatives of organizations that promote inter-religious dialogue.
We know that our differences need never be misrepresented as an inevitable source of friction or tension either between ourselves or in society at large. Rather, they provide a wonderful opportunity for people of different religions to live together in profound respect, esteem and appreciation, encouraging one another in the ways of God.
The Pope called on them to talk more about what they have in common and less about their differences.
Later, as representatives of several organizations took turns addressing the participants, one of the Muslim authorities took the floor and began to attack Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.
It was the chief judge of the Muslim religious courts in Palestine. He addressed a similar gathering with the same fierce tone back in 2000 during Pope John Paul II’s jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Some Jewish representatives left the room as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem tried to interrupt him. And since there was no translation, the Pope didn’t know what was happening.
When the Pope found out, he interrupted the meeting.
The next day, under tight security, Benedict XVI visited the Dome of the Rock, considered the third holiest site for Muslims. Accompanied by the Grand Mufti, the Pope walked through the site barefoot.
The shrine is built over a sacred stone and it’s the place Muslims believe the Prophet Mumammad ascended into heaven. An ancient tradition also commemorates the site as the place where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac.
During the cordial visit, the Pope asked the highest Muslim authority in Jerusalem for goodwill in overcoming past misunderstandings and conflicts.
The Pope said that all who believe in God must live honestly and strive to be merciful in order for the human family to live in peace for good.