05/12/2009, 00.00
VATICAN – ISRAEL
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May Jerusalem become a city of peace, open to all

Benedict XVI celebrates his first public Mass in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, beneath the Mount of Olive. Believers in the one God should promote a culture of openness and reconciliation. Christians in the Holy Land, who have suffered for many reasons, should keep alive the hope that comes from the Gospel.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – In Jerusalem there “should be no place within these walls for narrowness, discrimination, violence and injustice. Believers in a God of mercy—whether they identify themselves as Jews, Christians or Muslims—must be the first to promote this culture of reconciliation and peace, however painstakingly slow the process may be, and however burdensome the weight of past memories,” said John Benedict XVI in an appeal he made this afternoon to all those who live in the Holy Land, speaking in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which opens up in front of the Church of All Nations and the Mount of Olive, where he celebrated his first public Mass during his visit to Israel.

An appeal that the flags of Israel and Palestine responded to as they were carried by about 6,000 faithful who took part in the ceremony, flags waved together one another, not against one another, in this valley where, according to Jewish tradition, all the nations of the world shall gather on Judgement Day. 

“We are gathered beneath the Mount of Olives, where our Lord prayed and suffered, where he wept for love of this City and the desire that it should know "the path to peace" (Lk 19:42), and whence he returned to the Father, giving his final earthly blessing to his disciples and to us. Today let us accept this blessing. He gives it in a special way to you, dear brothers and sisters, who stand in an unbroken line with those first disciples who encountered the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread, those who experienced the outpouring of the Spirit in the Upper Room and those who were converted by the preaching of Saint Peter and the other apostles. My greeting also goes to all those present, and in a special way to those faithful of the Holy Land who for various reasons were not able to be with us today. As the Successor of Saint Peter, I have retraced his steps in order to proclaim the Risen Christ in your midst, to confirm you in the faith of your fathers, and to invoke upon you the consolation which is the gift of the Paraclete. Standing before you today, I wish to acknowledge the difficulties, the frustration, and the pain and suffering which so many of you have endured as a result of the conflicts which have afflicted these lands, and the bitter experiences of displacement which so many of your families have known and—God forbid—may yet know. I hope my presence here is a sign that you are not forgotten, that your persevering presence and witness are indeed precious in God’s eyes and integral to the future of these lands. Precisely because of your deep roots in this land, your ancient and strong Christian culture, and your unwavering trust in God’s promises, you, the Christians of the Holy Land, are called to serve not only as a beacon of faith to the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom and equilibrium in the life of a society which has traditionally been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multiethnic and multireligious ”.

In response to pain and foibles Benedict XVI cited the Apostle Paul who told the Colossians to "seek the things that are above. [. . .] This is the hope, this the vision, which inspires all who love this earthly Jerusalem to see her as a prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation and peace which God desires for the whole human family. Sadly, beneath the walls of this same City, we are also led to consider how far our world is from the complete fulfilment of that prophecy and promise. In this Holy City where life conquered death, where the Spirit was poured out as the first-fruits of the new creation, hope continues to battle despair, frustration and cynicism, while the peace which is God’s gift and call continues to be threatened by selfishness, conflict, division and the burden of past wrongs. For this reason, the Christian community in this City which beheld the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit must hold fast all the more to the hope bestowed by the Gospel, cherishing the pledge of Christ’s definitive victory over sin and death, bearing witness to the power of forgiveness, and showing forth the Church’s deepest nature as the sign and sacrament of a humanity reconciled, renewed and made one in Christ, the new Adam.”

“Gathered beneath the walls of this city, sacred to the followers of three great religions, how can we not turn our thoughts to Jerusalem’s universal vocation? Heralded by the prophets, this vocation also emerges as an indisputable fact, a reality irrevocably grounded in the complex history of this city and its people. Jews, Muslims and Christians alike call this city their spiritual home. How much needs to be done to make it truly a ‘city of peace’ for all peoples, where all can come in pilgrimage in search of God, and hear his voice, ‘a voice which speaks of peace’ (cf Ps, 85:8)!”

For those who were granted “the opportunity to ‘touch’ the historical realities which underlie our confession of faith in the Son of God. My prayer for you today is that you continue, day by day, to ‘see and believe’ in the signs of God’s providence and unfailing mercy, to ‘hear’ with renewed faith and hope the consoling words of the apostolic preaching, and to ‘touc’ the sources of grace in the sacraments, and to incarnate for others their pledge of new beginnings, the freedom born of forgiveness, the interior light and peace which can bring healing and hope to even the darkest of human realities.” (FP)

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