13-May-2009 -- Vatican Information Service |

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In the Holy Land There Is Room for Everyone

VATICAN CITY, 12 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Following a brief meeting with the consuls general of nine countries with offices in Jerusalem (Belgium, Italy, France, Greece, United Kingdom Spain U.S.A., Sweden and Turkey), at 4 p.m. today Benedict XVI travelled to the Valley of Josaphat, located in front of the Basilica of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives, where he celebrated Mass.

The Holy Father began his homily by acknowledging the difficulties and suffering caused by "the conflicts which have afflicted these lands", as well as "the bitter experiences of displacement which so many of your families have known. ... I hope my presence here is a sign that you are not forgotten, that your persevering presence and witness are indeed precious in God's eyes and integral to the future of these lands.

"Precisely because of your deep roots in this land", he added, "your ancient and strong Christian culture, and your unwavering trust in God's promises, you, the Christians of the Holy Land, are called to serve not only as a beacon of faith to the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom and equilibrium in the life of a society which has traditionally been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious".

"In this Holy City", the Pope went on, "hope continues to battle despair, frustration and cynicism, while the peace which is God's gift and call continues to be threatened by selfishness, conflict, division and the burden of past wrongs. For this reason, the Christian community in this city which beheld the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit must hold fast all the more to the hope bestowed by the Gospel, cherishing the pledge of Christ's definitive victory over sin and death, bearing witness to the power of forgiveness, and showing forth the Church's deepest nature as the sign and sacrament of a humanity reconciled, renewed and made one in Christ, the new Adam".

Noting then that Jews, Muslims and Christians all consider Jerusalem as their spiritual home, the Holy Father exclaimed: "How much needs to be done to make it truly a 'city of peace' for all peoples, where all can come in pilgrimage in search of God, and hear His voice, 'a voice which speaks of peace'!"

The Holy City must "live up to its universal vocation", he insisted, it "must be a place which teaches universality, respect for others, dialogue and mutual understanding; a place where prejudice, ignorance and the fear which fuels them, are overcome by honesty, integrity and the pursuit of peace. There should be no place within these walls for narrowness, discrimination, violence and injustice. Believers in a God of mercy - whether they identify themselves as Jews, Christians or Muslims - must be the first to promote this culture of reconciliation and peace, however painstakingly slow the process may be, and however burdensome the weight of past memories".

Referring then to the "tragic reality" of the departure of many Christians, especially the young, from this land, the Pope said: "Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone! As I urge the authorities to respect, to support and to value the Christian presence here, I also wish to assure you of the solidarity, love and support of the whole Church and of the Holy See".

The Holy Father concluded his remarks by calling on the faithful to continue, "day by day, to 'see and believe' in the signs of God's providence and unfailing mercy, to 'hear' with renewed faith and hope the consoling words of the apostolic preaching, and to 'touch' the sources of grace in the Sacraments, and to incarnate for others their pledge of new beginnings, the freedom born of forgiveness, the interior light and peace which can bring healing and hope to even the darkest of human realities".

At the conclusion of Mass the Holy Father travelled to the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem, where he dined in private and spent the night.

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