The Pope has arrived in Jordan on a politically sensitive visit to the Middle-East expressing deep respect for Islam. It is a trip that is likely to test his diplomatic skills to the limit.
Benedict XVI angered many muslims with a speech in 2006, when he implied that Islam was violent and irrational. More recently, many Jews were outraged when a conservative bishop who denied the extent of the holocaust was welcomed back into the church. The Pope said: “My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of virtues proclaimed by Islam.” His first appointment with the Catholic faithful in Jordan was at the Queen of Peace Centre for the disabled in Amman – a centre run by Catholic and Muslim volunteers. But the Pontiff’s diplomatic acumen is likely to meet a stiffer challenge when he arrives on the Israeli leg of his tour. Benjamin Netanhahu’s government has taken a critical stance on a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict – but the Holy See favours it.