This afternoon in Jerusalem, Pope Benedict was received by President of Israel Shimon Peres at his residence. After a private meeting between the two heads of state, Peres delivered a speech stressing the need to separate violence from religion, while Pope Benedict asserted that true security can only be found when justice that protects the human dignity of all is exercised.
When the Pope first arrived at the president’s house, Peres told Benedict that when he read the Pope’s writings, he knew that they “were sincere and of great depth.”
President Peres also told the Pope that he was “very moved” by his remarks at the airport condemning anti-Semitism.
Around 5:00 p.m. the president delivered a speech that focused on how the Jewish nation survived the Holocaust, and said “All of us: Jews, Christians, Muslims, all people of faith, recognize, that, today’s challenge is not the separation of religion and state, but the uncompromising separation of religion from violence.”
Pope Benedict then took to the podium and spoke of peace as “a divine gift,” a gift that God wishes to give to those who seek him with all their hearts.
“To the religious leaders present this afternoon, I wish to say that the particular contribution of religions to the quest for peace lies primarily in the wholehearted, united search for God.”
“Ours is the task of proclaiming and witnessing that the Almighty is present and knowable even when he seems hidden from our sight, that he acts in our world for our good, and that a society’s future is marked with hope when it resonates in harmony with his divine order. It is God’s dynamic presence that draws hearts together and ensures unity,” the Pope said.
This means, the Pope pointed out, that religious leaders must be mindful of division or tension within their flock, since “any division or tension, any tendency to introversion or suspicion among believers or between our communities, can easily lead to a contradiction which obscures the Almighty’s oneness, betrays our unity, and contradicts the One who reveals himself as ‘abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’.”
Turning to the idea of security, Pope Benedict drew upon the Hebrew understanding of the concept in Scripture. Security, or batah, “arises from trust and refers not just to the absence of threat but also to the sentiment of calmness and confidence,” Benedict explained.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, lasting security is a matter of trust, nurtured in justice and integrity, and sealed through the conversion of hearts which stirs us to look the other in the eye, and to recognize the ‘Thou,’ as my equal, my brother, my sister.”
“There is only one way to protect and promote these values: exercise them! Live them!” the Pope said, stressing that “no individual, family, community or nation is exempt from the duty to live in justice and to work for peace.”
The Holy Father concluded by praying that a “genuine conversion of the hearts of all lead to an ever strengthening commitment to peace and security through justice for everyone. Shalom!”