Encourages Pilgrims to Visit Holy Land
Amid news reports of increasing conflict in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Benedict XVI is calling for prayers for the Jews, Muslim, Christians, and all people of that region.

The Pope stated this today in a public address before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“In this moment our thoughts and our hearts are directed in a special way toward Jerusalem,” he said, “where the paschal mystery was accomplished.”

The Pontiff continued, “I am deeply saddened by the recent conflicts and for the tensions that have again arisen in that city, which is a spiritual homeland for Christians, Jews and Muslims, prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation that God desires for the whole human family.”

“Peace is a gift that God entrusts to human responsibility so that it might be cultivated through dialogue and respect for the rights of all, reconciliation and forgiveness,” he affirmed.

“Let us pray therefore,” Benedict XVI stated, “that those who are responsible for the fate of Jerusalem enter the way of peace with courage and follow it with perseverance.”

Not a fairy tale

Earlier today, in the homily of Palm Sunday Mass, the Pope recalled his pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year.

“The pilgrimage to the earthly Jerusalem,” he said, “can be something useful for us Christians.”

The Pontiff continued: “Faith in Jesus Christ is not the invention of a fairy tale. It is founded on something that actually happened. We can, so to speak, contemplate and touch this historical event.

“It is moving to find oneself in Nazareth in the place where the angel appeared to Mary and transmitted the task of becoming Mother of the Redeemer to her.

“It is moving to be in Bethlehem in the place where the Word, made flesh, came to live among us; to put one’s foot upon the holy ground where God wanted to make himself man and child.”

“Following the material paths of Jesus should help us to walk more joyously and with a new certainty along the interior paths that Jesus himself points out to us,” he said.

The Holy Father added, “When we go to the Holy Land as pilgrims, we go there, however as messengers of peace too, with prayer for peace; with the firm invitation that everyone in that place (which bears the word “peace” in name), has everything possible so that it truly become a place of peace.”

“Thus,” he said, “this pilgrimage is at the same time an encouragement to Christians to remain in the country of their origin and to commit themselves in an intense way to peace.”