Dear brothers and sisters,
Heartfelt thanks for your being here, today, to welcome me:
In particular, I thank H.E. Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan, the Bishops, the priests, the sisters, the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, and the civil authorities.
I am certain that your welcome is not a formal, external gesture that is a part of protocol and ritual. But that you are truly welcoming me into your life, your history, your community.
I also welcome you into my life, my affections, my thoughts and my pastoral concern.
Welcoming each other is the first step in walking together: and it requires placing trust in the other, in believing that the other will be a gift, even if one does not know him or her.
Welcoming the other, as you Jordanians know well, is an important gesture, it is a great gesture.
Indeed, one can say that the greatness of a life is measured by its capacity to welcome, by the space that it has within itself to host the other.
In the Gospel, Jesus often repeats that one is great who knows how to welcome his own brother; and indeed, he specifies that even greater is the one who knows how to welcome the least, the little, the different, the absent. And you in Jordan are doing it with great honor as I think not only of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
The Bible is full of examples of hospitality and those examples, show us how God in this way brings salvation and life.
It suffices to think of Abraham, at the oaks of Mamre (Gen 18, 1-15): the fruit of his hospitality is a son, given when, at that point, old age made it impossible to bear children.
Later, David and all the prophets… up to the Virgin Mary, she who welcomes the visit of God and with her “yes” opens the way of the Incarnation to the Son of God.
In this Country that has John the Baptist as an eminent biblical figure, my duty is none other than to open the way, the direction, to prepare, as did John the Baptist. He, also, in his mother’s womb, recognized and welcomed the Son of God.
I, too, am here today especially to be welcomed by you, and also to ask for a place, to ask for the gift of your hospitality.
And, to assure you of mine: I would like that you feel welcome; I want you to know that I am here, that I am accessible, that I am for all.
We want to believe that this mutual welcome, that we present ourselves today, will grow and deepen: through the events which we will share along the way, will become a history, and will continue the way of welcome and salvation begun with the Bible and that comes to us.
May the Lord help us in this, He is the first who always welcomes us, welcomes everyone, and He never tires of welcoming. May He be our strength, and give us again His Spirit who creates new and good ties between us, where each one can feel more and more at home in the life of the other.
I come to you, as I have already said on previous occasions, as a brother, for the period that the Church sees fit. I promise you full collaboration for the service that the Church asks of us in this time and in this Land. I will try to meet everyone, especially the priests and the religious houses in the country. I am sure that I can also count on your collaboration.
I do not come to an uncultivated field. Many before me have already worked much… in a word, I will continue the work of the Patriarchs who have preceded me, adapting and rectifying as will be necessary for the good of the Church.
I am well aware that I cannot do anything alone. As I said, I need and I ask your help and prayers. But we must work together not only among ourselves, but also together with all other religious realities of the country, especially with other Christian churches with whom we share everything. And then with Muslims and all those we will meet along our path.
In this context, it is right and proper to thank the King and all in the Royal Household and the Jordanian Government for their support of the religious communities of Jordan, in promoting dialogue between religious communities, in tolerance and respect for all.
May the God of peace enlighten us and give us the strength to continue to spread respect and friendship towards all.
Again, thank you and my blessing on all of you.
+ Pierbattista Pizzaballa