Pope Seen as Pilgrim Who Can Change Holy Land
Jerusalem Patriarch Expresses Hopes for May Visit
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Archbishop Fouad Twal said this today when he presented his Christmas '08 message during a press conference.
"With joy we would like to announce to you the desire of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim next May," the message reads. "The Supreme Pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire a firsthand knowledge of the hard conditions of our region.
"We are confident in the Lord that this pontifical pilgrimage and pastoral visit will be a blessing for us all, as well as a substantial contribution to a better understanding among the various nations of the region, lifting the barriers and helping solve the problems, removing distress and consolidating good relations among peoples, religions and denominations, in security and peace."
The patriarch told the journalists that the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land had invited the Pope to visit, and subsequently the civil authorities of the region had joined their voices to the appeal.
Asked if a precondition of the visit would be the signing of a pending accord between the Holy See and Israel, Archbishop Twal said there had been no exchange on the matter. "Each visit of the Pope is a pastoral visit," he said, "but the Pope is also a head of state, and we hope that his visit can bring an advance in the nature of the relations among all of us, and that it leads to resolutions."
The bilateral commission between the Holy See and Israel is set to meet four times before the end of March, and celebrate a general meeting at the end of April.