Infinity Goods blog

A blog for God’s People

Pope Announces U.S. Visit After Saudi King’s Vatican Visit

Posted by infinitygoods on November 12, 2007

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Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate his third anniversary as pontiff of the Catholic Church by traveling to the United States, where he will visit the White House and New York’s ground zero site of the 9/11 Muslim terrorist attacks, and will speak at the United Nations during a five-day trip April 15-20.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican ambassador to the United States, told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today that “the pope will not travel much, but he will address himself to the people of the United States and the whole Catholic Church.”

A welcome reception will be held at the White House on April 16.

Sambi says the pope wants to show “solidarity with those who have died, with their families and with all those who wish an end of violence and in the search of peace.”

This official announcement comes six days after King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia gave a jeweled sword to the pope, and on the Monday of the Veterans Day federal holiday.

Pope receives jeweled sword from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

A sword is a traditional Muslim gift given to heads of state. Is it meant as a symbol of trust or as a warning? That is the double-edged question.

The meeting between the king and the pope will surely be the hottest topic between the pope and President George Bush.

Saudi Arabia does not even grant diplomatic relations with the Holy See. As Victor L. Simpson of the Associated Press so aptly said in his article about the visit on Nov. 6, “Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia and the kingdom requires all Saudi citizens to be Muslims. Only Muslims can visit the cities of Mecca and Medina.

“Under the authoritarian rule of the royal family, the kingdom enforces strict sharia, or Islamic law. It follows a severe interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism which rejects the possibility of diplomatic relations with a Christian entity. This interpretation would prohibit a Vatican embassy in Saudi Arabia on the grounds it would be equivalent to raising the cross inside the site of Islam’s holiest places.

“It is forbidden to practice Christianity publicly inside Saudi Arabia, and it is illegal to bring symbols from religions other than Islam into the country. Bibles and crosses, for instance, are confiscated at the border.

“Some Christian worship services are held secretly, but the government has been known to crack down on them, or deport workers from the Philippines if they are known to hold even private services.”

The pope was also given a small statue of a camel by a palm tree and in return gave King Abdullah a 16th-century engraving of the Vatican and a gold medal of his pontificate.

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