In a departure ceremony attended by the President and Prime
Minister of Israel, on Friday 15 May 2009, the Holy Father gave an
address, thanking all who assisted in his apostolic journey to the Holy
Mr Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I prepare to return to Rome, may I share with you some of the
powerful impressions that my pilgrimage to the Holy Land has left with
me. I had fruitful discussions with the civil authorities both in Israel
and in the Palestinian Territories, and I witnessed the great efforts
that both governments are making to secure peopleís well-being. I have
met the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, and I rejoice
to see the way that they work together in caring for the Lordís flock. I
have also had the opportunity to meet the leaders of the various
Christian Churches and ecclesial communities as well as the leaders of
other religions in the Holy Land. 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.
Mr President, you and I planted an olive tree at your residence on
the day that I arrived in Israel. The olive tree, as you know, is an
image used by Saint Paul to describe the very close relations between
Christians and Jews. Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans how the
Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the
cultivated olive tree which is the People of the Covenant (cf.
11:17-24). 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
The ceremony at the Presidential Palace was followed by one of the
most solemn moments of my stay in Israel Ė my visit to the Holocaust
Memorial at Yad Vashem to pay my respects to the victims of the Shoah.
There I also met some of the survivors. 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
and 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.
Mr President, I thank you for the warmth of your hospitality, which
is greatly appreciated, and I wish to put on record that 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 anotherís
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" (Is 42:6), bringing hope to the many other regions that are
affected by conflict.
One of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was
the wall. 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.
It remains only for me to express my heartfelt thanks to all who have
contributed in so many ways to my visit. To the Government, the
organizers, the volunteers, the media, to all who have provided
hospitality to me and those accompanying me, I am deeply grateful.
Please be assured that you are remembered with affection in my prayers.
To all of you, I say: thank you, and may God be with you. Shalom!
[Original text: English]