Generation game, Visit of the Pope to Jordan
By Father Rif'at Bader
February 29th, 2000


THE HEADLINE refers to the feelings of everyone who follow the events of
history. It is well-known that every historical period has its own men and
women who shape its nature. That is why each generation has its own memories
and distinct tangible accomplishments. As a result, successors have to
listen to their predecessors in order to benefit from their wisdom and from
those reminiscences that are worth recording and retaining.
It so happened few days ago, while I was preparing myself to write an
article about the foreseeable visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to
Jordan, that a certain older man, whom I know very well and whose friendship
I cherish, paid me a short visit.

I told him that, like many other brethren of mine, I was reflecting on a
suitable article to produce and pass on to a local newspaper regarding the
imminent visit of the Pope. He reacted with an audible and emphatic sigh
which induced me to inquire with curiosity,

“Is there anything that annoys you in what I have just said?”

“Not at all my son,” he said. “There's nothing that annoys me in your words.
But the fact is that your words have carried me way back to that historic
day!”

“Which day do you mean?”

“I mean the sixth day of January 1964...”

“But why do you specifically remember that day?”

It seemed that he did not feel at ease with my successive questions; or
probably he was surprised at my ignorance. He said with a tone of apparent
exasperation:

“Don't you know about that day? It was the day that witnessed the Pope's
visit to Jordan... Pope Paul VI. Oh what a wonderful day it was!”

I paused for a while and then asked him calmly and gently:

“Sir, what is it that you particularly remember about day?”

“Father, for certain that day occurred before you were born. But I, at that
time, was in the active service of the gallant Arab Jordanian Army. We
actually filled the streets of Amman, Jerusalem and Bethlehem for purposes
of security and protection. What a happy day it was...! Now, I am more than
75 years of age; but I still remember that day vividly. The weather was very
cold and rain fell heavily. Nevertheless, the people did not find that to be
an obstacle for them to go out of their houses and see the guest of Jordan
and the guest of King Hussein, may God give both of them eternal rest. I was
very proud to be among the soldiers of King Hussein who were entrusted with
the assignment of defending the dear homeland and welcoming the guest of His
Majesty. We heard the announcer over the radio saying, `Here comes the guest
of His Majesty! Here comes His Holiness the Pope, descending on the stairs
of the plane while the sky is showering its rain and blessings upon the
worshippers of God.'”

“Were you one of those who saw the Pope in person?”

“Yes of course! Of course I saw him. The long and impressive procession
passed in front of us. We saluted both His Majesty `Abu Abdullah' and his
guest, His Holiness the Pope. Oh, what a breathtaking sight; the sight of
two great leaders! And what a wonderful friendship that joined them
together! Those moments were eternal!”

“And what a beautiful description you are rendering!” I zealously commented.
“You have made me eager to hear more of it...”

My aged friend relaxed in his seat and added, “Pope Paul VI was the first
great pontiff to travel outside the borders of Italy, and he chose the Holy
Land to be the first station for his first pilgrimage. Jordan is of course a
blessed and sacred land. That Pope was a great personality as well as a
saint and a brilliant thinker, renowned throughout the whole world. His
visit to Jordan was a proud moment for us. He was a dear guest of His
Majesty and of Jordan as a whole. During those outstanding moments, I
remember one of my colleagues approaching me while both of us were adhering
to our sentry duties. He was from a bedouin tribe in this our one and united
fatherland. His expression was typical of his dialect when he said to me,
`To tell you the truth, our guest today is tough (meaning great) like this
tough day'” (meaning exacting).

As my visitor continued his narrative, I felt myself benefiting enormously
from this opportunity. In his wrinkled face I could see a steady reflection
of bright memories until, suddenly, I noticed tears glittering in his eyes.
I intended to ask him the reason, but he preempted me explaining that his
present state of health would not enable him to join the crowds attending
Pope John Paul II's open-air appearances.

Finally, I asked him: “What would you say to the generations of today who
will participate in the coming great celebration?”

His thoughtful and solemn reply was, “My son, days and years go by; but
great events remain in the memory. They are unforgettable. Pope Paul VI
died, but his successor Pope John Paul II, the famed believer and
philosopher who defends human rights, is still conserving the lofty aims of
faith. His Majesty King Hussein died, but his successor His Majesty King
Abdullah II is carrying the torch in his hand. Both the society and the
homeland will, under his leadership, increase in strength and vigour. I
sincerely hope that you will welcome the guest of King Abdullah, with the
same joy and enthusiasm that we showed when we welcomed the guest of King
Hussein 36 years ago. Do prepare a dignified reception and participate with
pride and happiness in the celebrations that await you, so that you can
inform your children and your grandchildren about this significant and
historic visit.”

The writer is a parish priest for Smakieh near Karak