Pontiff Thanks Holy Land Faithful for "Gracious Hospitality"

Hopes More Christians Will Soon Be Able to Visit

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JERUSALEM, JUNE 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In a note of gratitude to those who welcomed him to the Holy Land, Benedict XVI expressed hopes that travel to the Holy Land will soon be a possibility for all Christians.



The Pope wrote this in a letter he sent in May to Archbishop Fouad Twal, the patriarch of Jerusalem, in which he expressed gratitude for "the gracious hospitality extended to me during my recent stay among you." The Patriarchate of Jerusalem published the letter Tuesday.

"It was a great joy for me to celebrate the sacred liturgy with you, together with so many of the faithful, in holy places associated with the central mysteries of salvation," the Holy Father added.

The 82-year-old Pontiff undertook a pilgrimage last month to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian National Territories, which included a marathon of activities and addresses -- 29 in total.

In his note to Archbishop Twal, Benedict XVI thanked the communities of the Holy Land for their hospitality: "As a pilgrim myself, I speak on behalf of countless generations of pilgrims, past and present, when I thank you for the welcome that we receive and for the care you devote to maintaining the holy places.

"I am confident that the tradition of pilgrimage will continue long into the future, and I pray especially that political tensions and travel restrictions will soon become a thing of the past, so that all the Christians, from home and abroad, will be able to access the holy sites freely and without impediment."

Benedict XVI assured the people of the Holy Land of his "spiritual closeness in all the trials and tribulations that they have to undergo in consequence of the unrest afflicting many parts of the Holy Land."

"Once again, he added, "I urge all of you to persevere in your faithful and united witness to the Gospel in the lands where Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose from the dead, in order to bring salvation to the whole world."