A Sacred Space, Shared


by Zoe Pollock

Paul Moses has a nice roundup of how Pope John Paul II's withdrawal of a convent near Auschwitz has been used in arguments against the Cordoba Mosque. He then offers a different anecdote about the Pope, celebrating Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem, in 2000:

The pope had just finished his homily, ending with “Assalamu alaikum,” when the Muslim call to prayer broke forth from the loudspeakers at a mosque that bordered on Manger Square. It seemed, at first, like a rude intrusion on the historic Mass the pope was celebrating in the Jubilee year. But John Paul sat quietly and listened as the muezzin sang God’s praise; he seemed to be savoring the moment. It was as if the Muslim prayer mingled with the Mass.

Just before the Mass ended, it was announced that church and mosque officials had coordinated the call to prayer, which had been delayed to accommodate the pope’s homily. It was a small matter, really, but this cooperation stirred the crowd, mostly Arab Christians, to cheers, applause and even to tears. A sacred space had been shared, and everyone was the better for it.

(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty.)