The Holy Father´s Week: May 18, 2009

A short report on Benedict XVI´s messages and activities.
by Maribel de Torres | Source:

The Pope urged the Holy Land Christians to embrace Gospel hope, "bearing witness to the power of forgiveness, and showing forth the Church's deepest nature as the sign and sacrament of a humanity reconciled, renewed and made one in Christ." At the Mass celebrated outside Jerusalem's walls Benedict XVI also expressed the hope that his presence will be a sign to the Holy Land Christians that they are not forgotten and that their “presence and witness are indeed precious in God's eyes and integral to the future of these land.  The Mass took place in the Valley of Josaphat, located in front of the Basilica of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives where Jesus suffered his agony before the crucifixion.  JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009

Emphasize the communion of mind and heart effected by the Eucharist. The Holy Father told the leaders of the Catholic Churches in the Holy Land gathered in the Upper Room, the historic place of Pentecost. Those gathered for the recitation of the Regina Caeli included the Latin patriarch, the bishops of the Churches of different rites in communion with Rome, and the custodian of the Holy Land.
 After leaving the Cenacle, the Pope went to the Latin patriarchate's co-cathedral of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, where he greeted the crowd of some 300 people, including religious contemplatives. Benedict XVI expressed appreciation for the "hidden apostolate of the contemplatives" and asked for their prayers for the Church's evangelization mission. JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009

The Holy Father visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where he addressed Muslim leaders. Reflecting on the spiritual significance of the site, the Pontiff said: "Here the paths of the world's three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing. Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony."
The Pope said it is for this reason that those "who adore the One God should show themselves to be both grounded in and directed towards the unity of the entire human family." He explained: "In other words, fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally interrelated, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal. Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity." JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009

Benedict XVI made a courtesy visit to the Grand Rabbinate. He affirmed his desire “to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation between the Holy See, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.”  The Pontiff said that “the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path chosen at the Second Vatican Council for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews. As the Declaration Nostra Aetate makes clear, the Church continues to value the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews and desires an ever deeper mutual understanding and respect through biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues”.
“I pray that God, who searches our hearts and knows our thoughts (Ps 139:23), will continue to enlighten us with his wisdom, so that we may follow his commandments to love him with all our heart, soul and strength (cf. Dt 6:5), and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Lev 19:18)” He ended.  JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009

"The Holy See supports the right to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of their forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbours, within internationally recognized borders,” Benedict XVI affirmed during the welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, where he was greeted by the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.  He voiced a plea to "put aside whatever grievances and divisions still stand in the way of reconciliation, and to reach out with generosity and compassion to all alike, without discrimination."
The Holy Father made a special appeal to young people: "Do not allow the loss of life and the destruction that you have witnessed to arouse bitterness or resentment in your hearts. Have the courage to resist any temptation you may feel to resort to acts of violence or terrorism.” 
"Instead, let what you have experienced renew your determination to build peace. Let it fill you with a deep desire to make a lasting contribution to the future of Palestine, so that it can take its rightful place on the world stage. Let it inspire in you sentiments of compassion for all who suffer, zeal for reconciliation, and a firm belief in the possibility of a brighter future." BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009

Benedict XVI visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem where he expressed his solidarity with all the homeless Palestinians. “How much the people of this camp, these Territories, and this entire region long for peace!” He said, “Instead you find yourselves trapped, as so many in this region and throughout the world are trapped, in a spiral of violence, of attack and counter-attack, retaliation, and continual destruction. The whole world is longing for this spiral to be broken, for peace to put an end to the constant fighting.”
“Yet history has shown that peace can only come when the parties to a conflict are willing to move beyond their grievances and work together towards common goals, each taking seriously the concerns and fears of the other, striving to build an atmosphere of trust.”
“Diplomatic efforts can only succeed if Palestinians and Israelis themselves are willing to break free from the cycle of aggression.” The Pope affirmed and he recalled the words attributed to Saint Francis: "where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon ... where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy." “I continue to pray that all parties to the conflict in these lands will have the courage and imagination to pursue the challenging but indispensable path of reconciliation. May peace flourish once more in these lands! May God bless his people with peace!”. BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009

Conversion is part of the message of Bethlehem.” Stated the Pope at a public Mass in Manger Square, in front of the basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Over 10,000 people crowded the square and adjoining streets.“By taking on our flesh, with all its weaknesses, and transfiguring it by the power of his Spirit, Jesus has called us to be witnesses of his victory over sin and death. And this is what the message of Bethlehem calls us to be: witnesses of the triumph of God's love over the hatred, selfishness, fear and resentment which cripple human relationships and create division where brothers should dwell in unity, destruction where men should be building, despair where hope should flourish!”
People who live in hope, the Holy Father continued, need "constant conversion to Christ which is reflected not only in our actions but also in our reasoning: the courage to abandon fruitless and sterile ways of thinking, acting and reacting." BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009

"Innocent Children Deserve a Safe Haven" Affirmed Benedict XVI during his visit to the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem. “God has blessed me with this opportunity to express my appreciation to the administrators, physicians, nurses and staff of Caritas Baby Hospital for the invaluable service they have offered -- and continue to offer -- to children in the Bethlehem region and throughout Palestine for over fifty years. “
The Holy Father noted that this Hospital was founded by Father E. Schnydrig upon the conviction that innocent children deserve a safe haven from all that can harm them in times and places of conflict.
“Thanks to the dedication of Children's Relief Bethlehem,” the Pontiff affirmed, “this institution has remained a quiet oasis for the most vulnerable, and has shone as a beacon of hope that love can prevail over hatred and peace over violence.”
The Pope concluded his visit invoking Mary’s intercession on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009

Although walls can easily be built, we all know that they do not last forever” The Holy Father said in his parting address at the Presidential Palace in Palestine in the presence of the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
 Walls can be taken down, Benedict XVI affirmed. “First, though, it is necessary to remove the walls that we build around our hearts, the barriers that we set up against our neighbours. That is why, in my parting words, I want to make a renewed plea for openness and generosity of spirit, for an end to intolerance and exclusion. No matter how intractable and deeply entrenched a conflict may appear to be, there are always grounds to hope that it can be resolved, that the patient and persevering efforts of those who work for peace and reconciliation will bear fruit in the end.” BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009

Benedict XVI encouraged Nazareth Christians to persevere in their homeland.In the Shrine of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Pope celebrated vespers with the bishops, priests, religious and ecclesial movements of Galilee and encouraged them to withstand the Christian exodus that is depleting the communities. He encouraged the remaining Christians to draw strength from the example of Mary "who led a hidden life in Nazareth, with little by way of worldly wealth or influence."
Benedict XVI urged them, "Have the confidence to be faithful to Christ and to remain here in the land that he sanctified with his own presence!" NAZARETH, MAY 14, 2009

 Teach Parents About Love. The Pope urged kids during the Mass he celebrated at the Mount of Precipice, traditionally held to be the site where angry Nazarenes wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff (cf. Luke 4:29), Benedict XVI considered the particular mission faced by children in the Middle East, suggesting that they could have a key role in helping the region.
 He recalled that the II Vatican Council teaches that children have "a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness," and he urged them to follow the example of Jesus, who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father.
 "I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning.”
The Pope also dedicated a central theme of his discourse to the defence of women and to the role of men, especially fathers. Thus, the Bishop of Rome noted the "essential role" of the family for society. And in this regard, he affirmed, there is a "duty of the state to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity." NAZARETH, Israel, MAY 14, 2009

Pontiff Joins Religious Leaders in Peace Appeal. At the Shrine of the Annunciation, the Pope's met with Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druzian leaders for dialogue and prayer. He affirmed that "Christians readily join Jews, Muslims, Druze, and people of other religions in wishing to safeguard children from fanaticism and violence while preparing them to be builders of a better world."
The Pontiff encouraged his listeners to "continue exercising mutual respect as you work to ease tensions concerning places of worship, thus assuring a serene environment for prayer and reflection here and throughout Galilee." NAZARETH, MAY 14, 2009

"The empty tomb speaks to us of hope," the Pontiff affirmed during his visit to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; last visit before he returned to Rome.  "Here Christ, the new Adam, taught us that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, that our future, and the future of all humanity, lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God." He said.
He urged those in the Holy Land to contemplate the empty tomb of the Saviour: "In that tomb it is called to bury all its anxieties and fears, in order to rise again each day and continue its journey through the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee and beyond, proclaiming the triumph of Christ's forgiveness and the promise of new life."
"The peace for which this strife-torn land yearns has a name," he added, revealing it to be Jesus Christ.
"He is our peace," the Pontiff said, "who reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross, bringing an end to hostility. Into his hands, then, let us entrust all our hope for the future, just as in the hour of darkness he entrusted his spirit into the Father's hands."
"May hope rise up ever anew, by God's grace, in the hearts of all the people dwelling in these lands! JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009

Other papal messages and activities:

The Holy Father placed a prayer in Jerusalem's Wailing Wall. In it he asks God to grant peace and to stir the hearts of all who call upon his name to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion. JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial was among the Pope’s first stops when he arrived in Israel for the second leg of his weeklong Holy Land pilgrimage. JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, met with the Pope for a 15-minute private talk in a Franciscan convent in Nazareth. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, reported that the discussion "centered on how the peace process can be advanced." NAZARETH, Israel, MAY 14, 2009

Benedict XVI blessed the cornerstone of a retreat centre that the Legionaries of Christ are building on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The Magdala Center, located in the birthplace of St. Mary Magdalene, is an extension of the Pontifical Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, where the Pope visited Tuesday to lead a meeting for interreligious dialogue. JERUSALEM, MAY 14, 2009

The Pope talked about the secret to evangelization. The Holy Father sent a message to the leaders of the Pontifical Missionary Works in which he recalled that it is Christ and his Spirit who evangelize and he mentioned a longing for sanctity, contemplation of the face of Christ, and a desire to share him with others, as the secret to evangelization.  VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2009

The Holy Father went to the Armenian Apostolic patriarchal church of St. James. In the presence of Archbishop Torkom II Manoukian and members of the Armenian Church, the Holy Father affirmed that the meeting "is another step along the path towards the unity which the Lord desires for all his disciples."
He acknowledged the recent "significant growth in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church," thanking the latter for its commitment in furthering theological dialogue between the former and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009

Benedict XVI forcefully denounced the Holocaust, rebutting critics who say that he did not correctly decry the tragedy in his recent visit to Israel's Yad Vashem memorial. At his farewell ceremony in the Ben Gurion international airport of Tel Aviv, the Pontiff took some moments to recall his entire pilgrimage, but made particular mention of his visit to the memorial, calling it "one of the most solemn moments of my stay in Israel." Speaking about the Holocaust, the Holy Father said: "That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied.”
"On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love."
The Holy Father also mentioned the wall that separates people in the Holy Land. He mentioned it as one of the saddest sights during his visit. “I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression.” TEL AVIV, Israel, MAY 15, 2009

"Bear United Witness to the Love of the Father". Benedict XVI urged in an ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem. “I pray that our gathering today will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.” JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009

"I Came as a Pilgrim and I Hope That Many Will Follow" remarked Benedict XVI to the reporters that accompanied him on his return flight from the Holy Land. He spoke about pilgrimage as a way to “encourage the unity of the peoples of this Holy Land and become messengers of peace.” The Pontiff remarked three fundamental impressions: The first is  a decisive will for interreligious dialogue, to meeting and cooperation between the religions among Muslim, Christian and Jewish. Second:  a very encouraging ecumenical climate.And third: Although the great  difficulties are more visible, we must speak about the not so visible common desire for peace, of fraternity, we must encourage everyone in this desire to find the certainly not so easy solutions to these difficulties, he said. VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2009

A prayer for the Holy Father 
Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen. 

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