Pope bids farewell to Holy Land

Pope bids farewell at ben Ben Gurion airport

Pope bids farewell at ben Ben Gurion airport

Pope Benedict concluded his pilgrimage to the Holy Land on Friday with an appeal for peace, at a farewell ceremony held at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

During his address, the Pope recalled some of his strongest impressions from his pilgrimage in the Holy Land, and added: “This land is indeed a fertile ground for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and I pray that the rich variety of religious witness in the region will bear fruit in a growing mutual understanding and respect.”

Benedict XVI then recalled how he an the President of Israel had planted an olive tree at his residence on the day of his arrival: “is an image used by Saint Paul to describe the very close relations between Christians and Jews...We are nourished from the same spiritual roots. We meet as brothers, brothers who at times in our history have had a tense relationship, but now are firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship.”

Then, “one of the most solemn moments” mentioned by the Pope was that of his visit to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, where he also met survivors of the Shoah. “Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews - mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends - were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred. That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied. On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love,” the Pope said.

Thanking the President for his warm hospitality, Benedict XVI said: “I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people. Friends enjoy spending time in one
another’s company, and they find it deeply distressing to see one another suffer. No friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians can fail to be saddened by the continuing tension between your two peoples. No friend can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life that both peoples have endured over the last six decades. Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence.

"Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream. And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a 'light to the nations', bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict.”

Lastly, the Holy Father defined the wall as “one of the saddest sights”: “As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression.

“Mr President, I know how hard it will be to achieve that goal. I know how difficult is your task, and that of the Palestinian Authority. But I assure you that my prayers and the prayers of Catholics across the world are with you as you continue your efforts to build a just and lasting peace in this region.”

Source: VIS

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