At his Wednesday general audience, Pope Benedict XVI recalled his recent trip to the Holy Land. He told the 20,000 pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square that peace is possible in the Holy Land, with the help of faith.
“I will never cease to thank the Lord because it revealed itself to be an immense gift for St Peter’s Successor and for the entire Church,” the Holy Father said of his visit.
After having thanked the bishops, governments and all those who collaborated in the success of the visit, Benedict XVI then recalled the first stage of the voyage: Jordan, and his visits to Monte Nebo and then Bethany Beyond Jordan, where Christ was baptized. Monte Nebo, he explained, is “a site of strong symbolic significance, its speaks of our condition as pilgrims, between what was and what has yet to be, between a beautiful hope and the fulfillment that goes beyond us.”
At Bethany the Pope blessed the foundation stones of two new churches—one Greek Melkite and the other a Latin rite Church. These churches, he stressed, are “a sign of the respect of the Hashemite Kingdom has for religious freedom and the Christian tradition.”
The Pontiff also visited the al-Hussein bin-Talal Mosque, which was built by King Abdullah II in memory of his father. “How important it is,” he commented, “that Christians and Muslims live together peacefully in mutual respect.” The Christian community in Jordan, Pope informed, provides education and aid to the needy independent of their religious convictions.
The Holy Father recalled that when he visited the Our Lady of Peace (Regina Pacis) Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, “I was able to bring a word of hope, but I received it in turn.” He also brought to mind the opportunity he had to bless the cornerstone of Madaba Catholic University, which “tangibly manifests the Churches love for the search for truth and common good, an essential first step to dialogue between civilizations.”
On May 11, Benedict XVI arrived in Israel on a trip as “a pilgrim of faith in the Land where Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again, and, at the same time, as a pilgrim of peace, imploring God that there, where He became man, all people may live as His children, that is, as brothers and sisters.”
“In that Land blessed by God at times its seems impossible to escape the spiral of violence. But nothing is impossible for God and for those who trust in Him! For this reason, faith in the one God, just and merciful, which is the most precious resource those people have, must have the power to release all its potential of respect, reconciliation and collaboration.” The Pope went on to explain how he had expressed this hope to the Grand Mufti and the heads of the Muslim community of Jerusalem, to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and to organizations dedicated to inter-religious dialogue.
Jerusalem, the Pope said, is “the crossroads of these three great religions and its very name means city of peace, it expresses God’s divine plan for humanity.” “All believers,” he added, “must leave prejudice and the will to predominate at their backs and unanimously practice the fundamental commandment that is to love God with all our being and love our neighbor with all of ourselves.”
“This is what Jews, Christians and Muslims are called to witness, to honor by our deeds the God that we pray to with our tongues,” the Pontiff continued. “This is what I carried in my heart as I prayed in Jerusalem at the Western Wall and at the Dome of the Rock.”
The visit to Holocaust memorial museum Yad Vashem was marked by a “moment of intense contemplation.” “Every human person is sacred and his name is written on the heart of the eternal God,” the Holy Father reflected. “Never must we forget the tremendous tragedy of the Shoah: on the contrary it must always be in our memory as a universal warning of the sacredness of human life, which always bears an infinite value.”
“I would like to sum up the entire itinerary in the sign of the Resurrection,” Benedict XVI concluded. “Despite wars and destruction and even conflicts between Christians, the Church has continued in its mission, it is on the road to full unity.”