05/17/2009, 00.00
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Pope talks about his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, prays to the Virgin of Madhu for Sri Lanka

Benedict XVI turns his thoughts to his recently concluded trip. The Holy Land has become a “symbol of the opposite,” a place of divisions and conflicts, but is also the “Fifth Gospel,” “a microcosm that sums up humanity’s tiring journey towards the Kingdom of justice, love and peace.” Pontiff appeals to combatants in Sri Lanka to protect the lives of civilians caught in the war zone.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In expressing his thoughts before today’s Regina Caeli prayer in front of tens of thousand of the faithful who were gathered in St Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI focused on two topics, on thanking the Lord and all those who worked on his recently concluded pilgrimage to the Holy Land and on praying for the civilians caught up in the fighting in Sri Lanka. In speaking about his trip to Jordan, Israel and Palestine, the Pontiff also said he would say more next Wednesday during the general audience.

After thanking the civil and religious authorities in the Holy Land, the faithful and all those “who accompanied and supported me in their prayer,” Benedict XVI explained that “this land, symbol of God’s love for his people and for the whole of humanity, is also a symbol of freedom and peace as God wills it for everyone of his children. However, yesterday’s and today’s history show that this land has become a symbol of the opposite, of divisions and never-ending conflicts among brothers. How can this be? Our heart is rightfully asked such a question, even if we know that God has a mysterious design with regards to the Earth, where, as Saint John wrote, he “sent his Son as expiation for our sins (1 Jh, 4:10). And so the Holy Land has itself become almost a metaphor of revelation a “Fifth Gospel”, as some have called it, which by virtue of its history can be considered a microcosm that sums up humanity’s tiring journey towards the Kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

The Holy Father used today’s first reading (the 4th of Easter), which mentions Saint Peter’s meeting with Cornelius, a pagan centurion who received the Holy Spirit (Acts, 10), to call for greater dialogue with members of other religions, in the apostle’s own spirit.

In the last part of his reflection the Pontiff made an appeal about the situation in Sri Lanka where the military has been on the offensive for the past several weeks against Tamil rebels in the northern part of the country, and where hundreds of thousands of people have been caught in the crossfire.

Today the Sri Lankan government announced that all the displaced people had reached safe areas and that the 25-year war against the Tamil Tigers ended in victory.

“We cannot end this Marian prayer,” said the Pope, “without turning our thoughts to Sri Lanka, to express our affection and spiritual closeness to the civilians caught in the combat zone, in the north of the country; thousands of children, women and elderly who lost years of life and hope to the war. And so I call on the combatants to facilitate their evacuation, joining my voice to that of the United Nations Security Council which just a few days ago demanded guarantees for their safety and security.”

“I call on humanitarian organisations, including Catholic organisations, to leave no stone unturned in their effort to bring urgent food and medical aid to the refugees.”

“I entrust this dear country to the maternal protection of the Virgin Saint of Madhu, beloved and venerated by all Sri Lankans. I raise my prayers to the Lord that he may bring closer the day of reconciliation and peace.”

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