05/20/2009, 00.00
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Peace is possible in the Holy Land, with the help of faith, says Pope

In his general audience, Benedict XVI retraces the steps of his recent trip to Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Respect for religious freedom in Jordan. The Shoah, a “universal warning” that must nit be forgotten. The rejection of all violence. An appeal for communications: that “cyberspace maybe a place to promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “For many it may seem impossible to break the cycle of violence” in the Holy Land, but “nothing is impossible for God and all those who trust in Him, this is why faith must be allowed to release its charge of respect, reconciliation and collaboration”.  This is one of the “memories” of Benedict XVI’s recent trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, that he present today to the 30 thousand pilgrims present in St Peter’s Square for the General Audience.

The apostolic voyage, a “pilgrimage” to the birth place of the faith and a pastoral visit to the Church in the Holy Land, of “singular importance” to the history of faith – which took place from May 8th to 15th – “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 Pope retraced the journey step by step, stressing the “respect for religious freedom” he witnessed in Jordan, the importance of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, the “universal warning” of the Shoah, and the need for all believers to “abandon prejudices and the desire to predominate”.

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 baptised.  Monte Nebo 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 fulfilment that goes beyond us”. “The Church is united to Christ its spouse, but the wedding banquet has been postponed to the end of time”.  We must recall that at Bethany he blessed the foundation stones of two new churches, the Pope underlined how this fact “is a sign of the respect of the Hashemite Kingdom has for religious freedom and the Christian tradition” and this “merits recognition”.

“I was given the occasion to express this and respect for Muslims” in the visit to the “al-Hussein bin-Talal” Mosque. “How important it is – he commented – that Christians and Muslims live together peacefully in mutual respect.  Thanks be to God and to the rulers of Jordan, this is so, and to this end I prayed that it may come to pass elsewhere, I also recalled where instead Christians live in difficult circumstances, such as nearby Iraq”.

An important Christian community, continued the Pope, live in Jordan which carries on vital work in education and assistance which are offered to all “independent of their religious convictions”.  Here he recalled his visit to the “Regina Pacis” rehabilitation centre for the disabled.  “I was able to bring a word of hope, but I received it in turn”.  Still in Jordan, Benedict XVI recalled the inauguration of the Catholic University, which represents “the Churches commitment to culture in the world”.  It was “a great joy” because it “tangibly manifests the Churches love for the search for truth and common good, an essential first step to dialogue between civilisations”.

On the 11th he arrived in Israel “where from the very outset I presented myself as a pilgrim of peace, to implore God so that all men can live as his children, that is as brothers”.  This emerged in his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian civil authorities.  “For many it may seem impossible to break the cycle of violence” in the Holy Land, but “nothing is impossible for God and all those who trust in Him, this is why faith must be allowed to release its charge of respect, reconciliation and collaboration”. This was the message that the Pope wanted to bring to his visits with the Gran Mufti of Jerusalem and the Gran Rabbinate of Israel and to his encounters with organisations involved in dialogue.

Jerusalem is “the crossroads of these three great religions and its very name means city of peace, it expresses God’s divine plan for humanity”, the plan to “realise one great family”. “All believers – he added - must leave prejudice and the will to predominate at their backs and unanimously practise the fundamental commandment that is to love God with all our being and love our neighbour with all of ourselves.  This is what Jews, Christians and Muslims are called to witness, to honour by our deeds the God that we pray to with our tongues.  This is what I carried in my heart as I prayed in Jerusalem at the Western Wall and at the Dome of the Rock”.

“A moment of intense contemplation” marked the visit to Yad Vashem.  “There we stood in silence, praying and meditating on the mystery of the name”.  “Every human person is sacred and his name is written on the heart of the eternal God”.  “Never – he added – 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”.

In the Upper Room “I was able to meditate on our vocation to be one thing alone”, “to transform the world through the humble power of love”.  Above all the Eucharistic celebrations were “culminating moments of communion with Catholics”. In Josephat Valley “we meditated on the Resurrection, as a force of hope and peace for the entire world”.  In Bethlehem, there were also the faithful of Gaza “whom I was able to comfort in person, assuring them of my personal closeness”.  “Isolation, uncertainty, poverty all of these things which have led Christians to leave, but the Church continues its journey, witnessing the meaning of faith”.

In the refugee camp, meeting the families there, he brought “closeness and encouragement”.  “I invited them to seek peace with non violent methods, by bringing them the example of St Francis”.

 Again in Nazareth, in reflections on the family and in particular “attention to children who have a right to grow in serenity and peace” and the Holy Sepulchre.  “I would like to sum up the entire itinerary in the sign of the Resurrection”.

In the Holy Land, concluded the Pope, “despite wars and destruction and even conflicts between Christians, the Church has continued in its mission, it is on the road to full unity”.  On Mount Calvary and before the empty tomb, “I invoked the power of love, the only [power] that guide history and the cosmos”.

Finally at the end of the audience, recalling the upcoming World Day for Social Communications, the Pope launched an appeal so that “cyberspace maybe a place to promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship in which the values of truth, harmony and understanding may flourish”.  “I appeal in particular to you young people – he concluded – be witnesses of faith in the digital world.  Use these new technologies to make known the Gospel, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for everyone may resound in a new way throughout this increasingly technological world”.


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