The greatest headline ever from John Allen in NCR

The late Pope John Paul II reigned so long and did so much that it’s difficult to imagine Benedict XVI surpassing his records in most areas, especially after a scant four years in office. Today, however, Benedict moved past John Paul II in one telling category: He’s doubled his predecessor’s total of mosques which he actually entered.

Late this morning, Benedict visited the Hussein bin-Talal mosque in the Jordanian capital of Amman. That makes two mosque tours for Benedict XVI, after a visit to the legendary Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, in late 2006. Though John Paul made appearances at many mosques over the years, he only entered one – the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, in 2001.

Granted, the visit in Amman wasn’t quite the same stunner as Istanbul. For one thing, the symbolism was different; Benedict didn’t share a moment of silent prayer with an imam, and he didn’t take off his shoes. He did both in the Blue Mosque in 2006.
Nonetheless, the pope’s choice to go to the mosque at all, which is named for Jordan’s late King Hussein, offered further confirmation of the rising importance of Islam for this pope and for the broader Catholic church.

In his address, Benedict delivered a version of what has, in effect, become his standard “stump speech” when addressing Muslim audiences: Islam and Christianity as natural allies in defense of common values and a positive role for religion in society, but, at the same time, the need to reject extremism and to respect religious freedom. The latter tends to be an especially urgent concern for church leaders, given the limitations and occasional persecution facing Christian minorities in some Islamic societies.

There’s more here including a message for Christians living in Islamic countries.

I say he should pile on about 10 more and become the Cal Ripken of Papal mosque visitors.

Do you think he goes home and closes the door and does a touchdown dance and then says “IN YOUR FACE Wotyla!”

Ahem, sometimes I’m just too much for my own good.

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