Pontifical Mission at 50: Amman

Celebrations in Jordan attest to the extraordinary nature of the Pontifical Mission’s work in the Hashemite Kingdom.

prepared by CNEWA staff
photographs: courtesy CNEWA-PMP, Amman

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Usually there are complications in crossing the Jordan River, the boundary between Israeli-occupied Palestine and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. But on 27 November, the Israeli authorities simplified the control procedures for the small Vatican party – Achille Cardinal Silvestrini, Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, Msgr. Robert Stern, Msgr. Denis Madden and Father Guido Gockel – and gave the exceptional permission for their cars to drive over the Allenby (King Hussein) Bridge into Jordan.

Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan, Mr. Ra’ed Bahou, Pontifical Mission’s Regional Director for Jordan and Iraq, and Mr. Khalil Al-Hinn, Finance Manager of our Amman office, welcomed the group at the other side of the bridge and with a Jordanian military and police escort sped them up the main highway to the capital city of Amman.

An informal luncheon with Jordan’s two Catholic bishops – Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Petra and Philadelphia George Al-Murr and Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan Bishop Selim Sayegh – and the Holy See’s Chargé for Jordan, Msgr. Charles Balvo of New York, opened the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission in Jordan.

At a press conference later that afternoon, Msgr. Stern, Msgr. Madden and Mr. Bahou met with representatives of ten news agencies. There was considerable interest in the anniversary events, especially since the concluding banquet was under the official patronage of King Abdullah II bin Hussein of Jordan.

Public celebrations began in the early evening with a Mass of Thanksgiving in the church of the De La Salle Christian Brothers school, a convenient location in Jebel Hussein, near the center of Amman. The principal celebrant, who represented the Pope, was Cardinal Silvestrini. He was joined at the altar by Archbishop Al-Murr, Bishop Sayegh, Msgr. Stern and Msgr. Madden. Several of Jordan’s Catholic priests concelebrated.

Mr. Bahou served as lector for the Mass, our other Amman office staff members participated in the Prayer of the Faithful and an impressive choir sang in both Latin and Arabic. The Apostolic Nuncio read the Holy Father’s message to the assembled congregation.

In his homily, Archbishop Al-Murr paid tribute to the work of the Pontifical Mission in the kingdom:

“If I were to describe in one word the work of the Pontifical Mission, I could find no better word than ‘inclusive.’

“The Mission sympathetically, affectionately and generously takes care of all basic human needs, such as food, clothing, shelter and medical care. The interests of the Pontifical Mission, however, are not limited to basic human needs alone. The Mission also cares for the soul, through its support of child education programs, the sponsorship of orphans, the handicapped, the destitute and the aged. In addition, the Mission also improves village and camp infrastructure, such as water sources, sewage treatment and electricity.

“In short, the Pontifical Mission is like a mother who looks after all her children’s needs, materially, spiritually and socially.”

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