Rome, 21 (NE) "This is truly a historic visit and everyone, Jews, Christians and Muslims know it.
The Pope's personality makes the visit historical," stated Archbishop Pietro Sambi, moments before the beginning of Pope John Paul II' pilgrimage to Holy Land. In an interview published by Fides, the Nuncio in Israel recalled the situation of Christians in Holy Land, stressing the importance that the presence of the Pope will have for the local Church. 

In Holy Land, "where the Church was born, Christians form a mere 2 percent of the population.
They expect the Pope's visit to bring comfort, encouragement to be here and to stay here." "The Holy Father's visit" -the Nuncio further emphasized- " will help the local Christian community to strengthen its identity. They need to be comforted by the Church, by the Pope, to feel that their presence is valued. These Christians in the Holy Land represent Christians all over the world.
They are important because they keep the faith alive in these places where our Redemption was won." 

Archbishop Sambi also warned about the possible manipulations of the Pope's pilgrimage. "We have made every effort to underline the spiritual nature of the visit, trying at all costs to remove any political colouring. This is to allow the values, human, Christian, moral and values of civilization of which the Pope will speak, to be heard and to be received. The Holy Land was chosen by God to be the Land of the Message: here God revealed himself to mankind, and revealed also humanity's mission in life. The Pope's visit will help this land to be once again the Land of the Message for humanity, about to start a new millennium." 

"To retrace the steps of Jesus -the Nuncio finally said- means to listen again to his teaching, encounter his spirit. It means becoming again disciples and starting out again as apostles in different parts of the world. To make a pilgrimage here, to walk where Jesus walked, is to realize the urgency of mission."