Pope Benedict XVI’s itinerary through the Holy Land is a journey to the roots of the faith, returning to the paths of God. And not of just any god, but of the One who, revealing himself in many ways to Abraham, to the patriarchs, to Moses and to the prophets, was made man in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah who died and rose from the dead. This journey is thus first of all a pilgrimage.
It is similar to that which millions of people, often facing hardship and difficulty, have undertaken over the course of the millennia. Going up to Jerusalem, the Holy City, reciting the psalms of the ascensions, spoken, according to the usage – which dates back at least 25 centuries – of the people of the Covenant, who remained faithful despite dispersion and persecution.
It is an itinerary repeated by Joseph, by Mary, and by Jesus. Then by the Apostles and the followers of the crucified Rabbi. By impassioned women – like Helena, Constantine’s mother, and 60 years later, around 385, the Spanish pilgrim Egeria – and by people of every epoch. From Bishop Melito of Sardes, who travelled there around the year 170 to see the places of Scripture, to Jerome, who sought there the “Hebrew truth” of the Bible, to the return of the Successors of Peter.
Although in 1904 Pius x tearfully bade farewell to the Italian pilgrims departing for the Holy Land, knowing he could not visit it, in 1964 Paul VI began his journey in the footsteps of Christ with a surprising and essential itinerary, while John Paul II marked the extraordinary bi-millennial Jubilee with a pilgrimage which lives on in the world’s memory.
Now, Benedict XVI goes to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories to celebrate the faith and to confirm the friendship of the Church of Rome with all: from Muslim believers – with whom a shared journey is possible – to the Hebrew people and to Christians of every confession. In a journey whose only political intention is that of contributing to a peace which must translate itself into justice and security for all peoples of a land that is truly holy.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 18, 2019
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