Reflecting on his trip to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI praised the openness of the people to inter-religious dialogue, the ecumenical atmosphere and the desire for peace in the region.
The Holy Father focused on three main impressions of his trip. The first was the openness of the people “to inter-religious dialogue, to encounter, to collaboration among religions. It is important that everyone should see this not just as an action, let us say, inspired by political motives in the particular situation, but as the fruit of a shared nucleus of faith; because to believe in the one God Who created us all and is Father of us all, to believe in this God Who created humankind as a family, to believe that God is love and wants love to be the dominant force in the world, implicates this coming together, this need for encounter, for dialogue, for collaboration as a requirement of faith itself.”
“The second point is that I found a truly encouraging ecumenical atmosphere,” he continued. “We held many very cordial meetings with the Orthodox world; I was also able to speak to a representative of the Anglican Church and two Lutheran representatives. It is evident that this atmosphere of the Holy Land also encourages ecumenism.”
He then moved on to his third point. “Thirdly, great difficulties exist – we know it, we saw it and we felt it. Yet I also saw that there is a profound desire for peace on all sides. The difficulties are more visible, and we must not hide them, they exist and they must be clarified. Yet what is not so visible is the shared desire for peace and brotherhood, and I feel we must also speak of this, encourage everyone in this desire to find the solutions, the by-no-means-easy solutions, to these difficulties.
“I came as a pilgrim of peace,” he concluded. “Pilgrimage is an essential element in many religions: in Islam, in Judaism, in Christianity. It is also the image of our own lives, which are a march forwards towards God and thus towards the communion of humankind.