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Pope Benedict XVI

Pope leads open-air Mass in Amman stadium

Pope Benedict XVI 35%

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the first open-air Mass of his Middle East trip Sunday, drawing Catholics from Iraq and other Christian communities across the region.

As many as 20,000 people attended the service in a sports stadium on Benedict's third-day in Jordan. He departs Monday for Israel and the Palestinian territories on a trip intended to strengthen frayed ties with Muslims and Jews.

Benedict is seeking to encourage his beleaguered flock in the Middle East. War and economic hardships have led many to flee their countries and the region, threatening the very existence of the ancient communities.

As the pope was driven into the stadium people held up flags from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.

"The holy father speaks here and his voice is heard in the Middle East especally by Iraqi Christians who are suffering a lot," said Father Raymond Mousalli, an Iraqi priest.

...

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON

See AP


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