Audience Address: On the Trip to the Holy Land

"With this pilgrimage, I wished to take a word of hope, but I also received it in return!"

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 1094 hits

Below is a translation of Pope Francis’ address at the General Audience this morning in St. Peter’s Square.

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Holy Father's Catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the past days, as you know, I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a great gift for the Church, for which I thank God. He led me to that blessed Land, which witnessed the historical presence of Jesus and where fundamental events took place ofJudaism, Christianity and Islam. I wish to renew my cordial gratitude to His Beatitude, Patriarch Fouad Twal, to the Bishops of the various rites, to the priests and to the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. These Franciscans are great! The work they do is most beautiful! My grateful thought goes also to the Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian Authorities, who received me with so much courtesy, I would also say with friendship, as well as to all those who cooperated for the realization of the visit.

The main purpose of this pilgrimage was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. That was the first time in which a Successor of Peter visited the Holy Land: thus during Vatican Council II, Paul VI inaugurated the Popes’ trips outside of Italy in the contemporary age. That prophetic gesture of the Bishop of Rome and of the Patriarch of Constantinople was a milestone in the suffering but promising path of unity of all Christians, which since then has taken important steps. Therefore, my meeting with His Holiness Bartholomew, beloved brother in Christ, was the culminating moment of the visit. We prayed together at the Sepulcher of Jesus and, with us, were the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch, Nourhan, in addition to Archbishops and Bishops of different Churches and Communities, civil Authorities and many faithful. In that place where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounded, we perceived all the bitterness and sufferings of the divisions that still exist between the disciples of Christ; and truly this does so much harm, hurt to the heart. We are still divided; in that place in fact where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounded, where Jesus gave us life, we are still somewhat divided. But above all, in that celebration charged with reciprocal fraternity, esteem and affection, we heard loudly the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to make of all his sheep only one flock. We felt the desire to heal the still open wounds and to continue with tenacity on the path towards full communion. Once more, as the preceding Popes did, I asked forgiveness for what we did to foster this division, and I ask the Holy Spirit to help us to heal the wounds that we did to other brothers. We are all brothers in Christ and, with Patriarch Bartholomew, we are friends, brothers and we shared the will to walk together, to do everything that we can do today: pray together, work together for God’s flock, seek peace, protect Creation, so many things that we have in common. And, as brothers, we must go forward.

Another purpose of this pilgrimage was to encourage in that region the path to peace, which is at the same time gift of God and commitment of men. I did so in Jordan, in Palestine and in Israel. And I did so always as a pilgrim, in the name of God and of man, bearing in my heart great compassion for the children of that Land who for too long have coexisted with war and have the right to know, finally, days of peace!

Therefore, I exhorted the Christian faithful to allow themselves to be “anointed” by the Holy Spirit with an open and docile heart, to be ever more capable of gestures of humility, brotherhood and reconciliation. The Spirit enables one to assume these attitudes in daily life, with persons of different cultures and religions, and thus become “artisans” of peace. Peace is made with craftsmanship! There are no industries of peace, no. It is done every day through craftsmanship, and also with an open heart so that God’s gift will come. Therefore, I exhorted the Christian faithful to allow themselves to be “anointed.”

I thanked the authorities and the people in Jordan for their commitment in welcoming the numerous refugees from areas of war, a humanitarian commitment that merits and requires the constant support of the International Community. I was impressed by the generosity of the Jordanian people in receiving refugees, so many fleeing from war in that area. May the Lord bless these hospitable people, bless them very much! And we must pray that the Lord will bless this hospitality and appeal to all international institutions to help these people in the work of hospitality they do. Also during my pilgrimage in other places I encouraged the Authorities concerned to continue their efforts to relax the tensions in the Middle Eastern area, especially in martyred Syria, as well as to continue in their search for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, I invited the President of Israel and the President of Palestine, both men of peace and artisans of peace, to come to the Vatican to pray together with me for peace. And I ask you, please, not to leave us alone: you must pray, pray so much to the Lord to give us peace, to give peace to that blessed Land! I am counting on your prayers. Strong, pray, at this time, pray much that peace will come.  

This pilgrimage to the Holy Land was also the occasion to confirm in the faith the Christian communities, which suffer so much, and to express the gratitude of the whole Church for the presence of Christians in that area and in the whole of the Middle East. These brothers of ours are courageous witnesses of hope and charity, “salt and light” in that Land. With their life of faith and prayer and with their appreciated educational and welfare activity, they work in favor of reconciliation and forgiveness, contributing to the common good of the society.

With this pilgrimage, which was a true grace of the Lord, I wished to take a word of hope, but I also received it in return! I received it from brothers and sisters who hope “against all hope” (Romans 4:18), through so many sufferings, such as those of one who has fled his country because of the conflicts; such as those , in different parts of the world, who are discriminated and scorned because of their faith in Christ. Let us continue to be close to them! We pray for them and for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole of the Middle East. May the prayer of the whole Church also support the path towards the full unity of Christians, so that the world will believe in the love of God that came, in Jesus Christ, to dwell among us

And I invite you all now to pray together, to pray together to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, Queen of Christian Unity, the Mother of all Christians: may she give us and the whole world peace, and may she accompany us on this path of unity. [Ave Maria]

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English:

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: My apostolic journey to the Holy Land in these days was a great grace for me and for the whole Church. It commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which marked a milestone along the path to Christian unity. Patriarch Bartholomaios and I prayed together as brothers before the tomb of the Risen Lord and we renewed our commitment to work for full communion between the Churches. My journey was also meant to encourage the efforts of those who work for peace in the Middle East and those who care for the many people, especially refugees and children, suffering the effects of war and violence. As you know, I have invited the Presidents of Israel and Palestine to join me in praying for peace. Finally, I wished to confirm in faith the Christian communities in the Holy Land, to acknowledge their difficulties and to support their charitable and educational works. May the prayer and solidarity of the entire Church sustain their witness to the Gospel message of hope and reconciliation, and help to bring God’s gift of peace to those blessed lands.

Holy Father:

I am pleased to greet the members of the International Catholic Migration Commission meeting in plenary session, with prayerful good wishes for their united action in providing relief to so many of our brothers and sisters in need. I also greet the Catholic Police Guild of England and Wales on the centenary of its foundation, and the members of the Global Legislators Organization. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Sweden, Israel, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. God bless you!

[Original text: English]

Greeting in Italian:

Dear Italian-speaking pilgrims: welcome! I am happy to receive the pilgrimage of the diocese of Trento, with the Archbishop, Monsignor Bressan and the priests and women religious of the diocese of Ischia, with the Bishop, Monsignor Lagnese. I greet the pupils of the Vatican School of Library Science; the catechists taking part in the Course of Formation in the Vicariate of Rome; the students of Tivoli, winners of the “Bible Festival,” accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor D’Onorio. May the visit to the Tombs of the Apostles revive faith, reinforce hope and foster charity.

A particular thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. We are about to conclude the Marian month. Dear young people, may the Mother of God be your refuge in the most difficult moments; may she support you, dear sick, in facing your daily cross with courage and may she be your reference, dear newlyweds, so that your family is a domestic hearth of prayer and mutual understanding. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]