Vatican City ( AsiaNews ) - Pope Francis will be in the Holy Land May 24 to 26 , to commemorate the "historic meeting" between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras . During this pilgrimage, for which the Pope asks the prayers of all the faithful, there is an Ecumenical Meeting at the Holy Sepulchre with the representatives of all the Christian Churches present in the Holy Land . This was announced by the Pope after the Angelus today, delivered to a St. Peter's Square under pouring rain.
Before the Marian prayer, Francis spoke of the "deeper" meaning of the birth of Jesus : " He is the Word of God made man that pitched his "tent", his dwelling among men. The Evangelist writes: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14) . All of Christianity is encapsulated in these words, which never cease to wonder! God is made mortal , fragile like us, he shared our human condition , except sin , but he took them upon himself as if they were our own . He entered our history , and became fully God -with-us ! the birth of Jesus , then, shows us that God wanted to join every man and woman, each one of us, to communicate His life and His joy".
This, "is the message of Christmas : the Word was made flesh. So Christmas reveals the immense love of God for humanity. Hence the enthusiasm, the hope of Christians , that in our poverty we know we are loved, to be visited, accompanied by God, and we look at the world and history as the place where we can walk with Him and with one another , towards the new heavens and the new earth . A new promise was born with the birth Jesus, a new world is born , but also a world that can always be renewed . God is always present to raise mankind anew to cleanse the world of sin that corrupts and ages".
As is the case with human and individual histories, they may be marked by difficulties and weaknesses, but Francis added, "faith in the Incarnation tells us that God is united with mankind and our history. This proximity of God man, to each man, each of us, is a gift that never ends! He is with us , He is God -with-us : behold the glad tidings of Christmas : the divine light , which overflowed in the hearts of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph , and guided the steps of the shepherds and the magi, shines for us today . "
In the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, "there is also an aspect linked to human freedom , the freedom of each of us . Indeed , the Word of God pitches his tent among us, sinners in need of mercy. And all of us, we should hasten to receive the grace that He offers us. Instead , continues the Gospel of St. John, " his people did not welcome him" (v. 11). too often we reject Him, we prefer to stay locked within the closure of our mistakes and with the anxiety of our sins. But Jesus does not give up and never stops offering himself and his grace that saves! Jesus is patient and waits. He is always waiting for us . This is a message of salvation, ancient and ever new. And we, we are called to witness to the Gospel message with this joy of life and light, hope and love. For that is what Jesus' message is: life, light, hope and love. "
Immediately before the Angelus , the Pope invoked for " Mary, Mother of God and our loving Mother , always sustain us , so that we remain faithful to our Christian vocation and carry out the wishes of justice and peace that we carry within us at the beginning of this new year. "
Then following the Marian prayer, Francis announced his next trip: "In this climate of joy , typical of this Christmas season , I wish to announce that 24 to 26 May next, God willing, I will be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land . The main purpose of this pilgrimage is to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which happened January 5th , like today, 50 years ago . There will be three stages in Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. An Ecumenical Meeting will be celebrated with representatives of all Christian Churches of Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulchre together with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Starting now I ask you to pray that this pilgrimage be a pilgrimage of prayer".
Soon after, before concluding, Francis added: " In recent weeks so many messages of good wishes for Christmas and the New Year have been sent to me from all over the world. I would like to respond to everyone, but unfortunately it is impossible! So I want to thank the children for their beautiful drawings, which are really beautiful ! I want to thank the young people, the elderly , families , parish and religious communities , associations , movements and groups who have honored me with affection and closeness. I ask everyone to continue to pray for me, I need it, and for my service to the Church. Thank you".