From the heart of the Holy Land, from Jerusalem and from Bethlehem, Benedict XVI was looking to the future. And his look was a look of hope even in a situation that did not seem to leave him any room for hope.
Having come on pilgrimage as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, on behalf of the entire Church the Pope wanted first and foremost to strengthen the Christian minority, as small as it is ancient. Indeed, the roots of these minuscule, ceaselessly troubled Catholic communities which the present crisis in the region is reducing further, date back to the origins of Christianity and have been dear to the Church throughout the world since the time of the Apostle Paul.
In this harsh and bitter context Christians of the Holy Land are called to foster harmony and balance. They must make a choice that can set an example for the universal vocation of Jerusalem itself. Benedict XVI described the Holy City as the spiritual home of Jews, Christians and Muslims and a microcosm of the globalized world, and it was significant that he did so during the Mass in which, unfortunately, many Catholics were unable to take part although they would have liked to, and which he celebrated in the Valley of Josaphat, a place where for centuries Jews, Christians and Muslims have been buried in the common expectation of the Last Judgement.
And on his arrival in the Palestinian Territories the Pope once again raised his eyes to the future, reiterating in his Discourses his solidarity with a people that is suffering – especially since the Gaza war – and the Holy See's support for a sovereign Palestinian homeland within internationally recognized boundaries, as well as a new appeal to the international community for a solution that will satisfy the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians to a lasting peace that will guarantee security and greater freedom of movement to all.
The future of the entire Holy Land – Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories – needs peace and for this reason the task of teaching the new generations to resist the temptation to have recourse to violence or terrorism is urgently necessary.
The Pope and the Church wield neither weapons nor political power but there is no lack of leaders in the region who have understood the urgent need for a future without war and without walls, in favour of what the Holy See has been working for for decades. And it was from Bethlehem itself that Benedict XVI repeated the proclamation of the birth of the Saviour who put an end to the domination of sin and death over man, the Saviour who founded a Kingdom that is not of this world but is capable of changing it.
The Palestinians – together with the other peoples of the Near and Middle East – above all require the courage to abandon paths that have proven dead ends. They need bridges, not walls.
In brief, they need a proper new spiritual infrastructure at the service of education, development and the common good based on justice in order to build a future of peaceful coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims. And among Israelis and Palestinians.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 18, 2019
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