Pope presented with postage stamps commemorating Holy Land pilgrimage

Pope Benedict XVI has been presented with an official set of postage stamps, issued by the Philatelic Service of the Israel Postal Company, to commemorate his  historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land during May 2009.

The Holy Father  received a framed copy of the two ‘My Own Stamp’ personalized stamp sheets and special commemorative souvenir booklets dedicated to his visit. He chatted for a few minutes to the Israeli delegation at the end of his weekly General Audience, in St  Peter's Square, on Wednesday 10 June.

Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechai (Moty) Lewy, introduced Pope Benedict XVI to Mr Avi Hochman, CEO & President of the Israel Postal Company; Mr Yaron Razon, Director of the Israel Philatelic Service; Mrs Yael Koskas, International Marketing Manager, Israel Philatelic Service and Pope Benedict XVI Souvenir Sets Project Manager, who had flown from Israel for the occasion.

The Israeli Ambassador also introduced Project Consultant, Peter Jennings, journalist and broadcaster, who wrote the text for both the special souvenir booklets.

The first personalized stamp sheet and souvenir booklet was released on  4 May to welcome Pope Benedict to Israel for his pilgrimage – A BRIDGE FOR PEACE  - 11 to 15 May. The  booklet featured photographs of the Christian holy sites and relevant biblical texts. The limited edition of 10,000 stamp sheets and booklets quickly sold out to a worldwide market.

The second 'My Own Stamp' personalized sheet and souvenir booklet features a selection of  photographs that capture key moments of the Pope's pilgrimage along with quotes from his addresses, reflections and sermons.

Mr Jennings wrote in his Introduction to the second commemorative booklet: "The postage stamp, art in miniature, has a unique permanence. The media - newspapers, radio and television, the world-wide web and blogs - present an event like this fleetingly but this special stamp sheet and commemorative booklet provide an enduring record for collectors and non-collectors to be cherished by future generations."

After the presentation, Ambassador Lewy revealed that Pope Benedict was enthusiastic about the idea of a joint Vatican-Israel stamp issue to commemorate his 2009 visit to Israel to be issued during 2010.  The Pope remarked: "It is a good idea for both of us".

Mr Yaron  Razon, Director of the Israel Philatelic Service said: "We are excited about a joint stamp issue with the Vatican and already have some interesting preliminary ideas."

Peter Jennings said: "It was a great honour and a privilege that the Israel Philatelic Service invited me as a Catholic to be part of their project to welcome the Holy Father to the Holy Land. It is a sign of the cordial relationship between the State of Israel and the Catholic Church."

Avi Hochman, CEO & President of Israel Postal Company, said: "The State ofIsrael is proud to present the elegant souvenir stamp set in honour of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land."

Mr Hochman added: "The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel is a testimony to the eternal coexistence of the Jewish nation and religion side by side with Christianity, and the mutual and deep-felt respect that the State of Israel affords the Vatican and vice versa."

For further information see the Israel Philatelic Service website: www.israelpost.co.il/pope

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