00 5/17/2009 4:07 PM


The Holy Father gave thanks to the Lord for having allowed him to make his pilgrimage to teh Holy Land and thanked everyone who contributed to the effort, even as he asked the faithful to pray for peace in the Middle East and for the Christians there who live in difficulty.

He ended his messages with an appeal to the authorities in Sri Lanka to look after the civilians who are caught in the middle of ongoing hostilities between government forces and Tamil separatist rebels in the northern part of the country,

Here is how the Holy Father synthesized his mini-homily today in English:

In today’s Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to remain in his love by their love for one another.

These words of the Risen Lord have a special resonance for me as I reflect on my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

I ask all of you to join me in praying that the Christians of the Middle East will be strengthened in their witness to Christ’s victory and to the reconciling power of his love.

Through the prayers of Mary, Queen of Peace, may the Christians of the Holy Land, in cooperation with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours, and all people of good will, work in harmony to build a future of justice and peace in those lands.

Upon them, and upon all of you, I invoke an abundance of Easter joy in Christ our Saviour

Here is the full text of the Holy Father's words today:

Dear brothers and sisters:

I came back the other day from the Holy Land. I intend to speak to you about this pilgrimage with greater amplitude on Wednesday at the General Audience.

Today I wish to thank the Lord above all, who has allowed me to complete this very important apostolic journey.

And I thank all who offered their collaboration: the Latin Patriarch and the pastors of the Church in Jordan, in Israel and the Palestinian Territories; the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land; the civilian authorities of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories; the organizers and the forces of law and order.

I thank the priests, the religious and the faithful who welcomed me with such affection and all those who accompanied and supported me with prayers. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.

This pilgrimage to the holy sites of Christianity was also a pastoral visit to the faithful who live there, a service for the unity of Christians, for dialog with Jews and Muslims, and for building the peace.

The Holy Land, symbol of God's love for his people and for all of mankind, is also a symbol of the freedom and peace which God wants for all his children.

But in fact, the history of yesterday and today show that that land has become the symbol of the contrary - namely, of divisions and interminable conflicts among brothers.

How is this possible? It is right that this question should address our hearts, although we know that a mysterious plan by God involves that land where, as St. John writes, he "sent his Son as expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4,10).

The Holy Land has been called a 'fifth Gospel', because there, we can see, and even touch, the reality of the history that God has realized with men: starting with the places in Abraham's life up to the places of the life of Jesus, from the incarnation to the empty tomb, the sign of his Resurrection.

Yes, God came to this land - he lived like us in this world. But we can say something else: the Holy Land, by its very history, can be considered a microcosm which sums up in itself God's difficult journey with man. A journey which, with sin, also implies the Cross.

But with the abundance of divine love, it also always implies the joy of the Holy Spirit in the Resurrection that took place, a journey through the valleys of our suffering toward the Kingdom of God. A kingdom which is not of this world but lives in this world and should penetrate it with its power of justice and peace.

[The statements in green were impromptu additions to the text by the Holy Father, according to the account of Vatican Radio.]

The history of salvation starts with the election of a man, Abraham, and of a people, Israel, but its intention is universality - the salvation of all peoples. The history of salvation has always been marked by this interweaving of specificity and universality.

We see this nexus
in the first reading today: St. Peter, seeing in Cornelius's house the faith of the pagans and their desire for God, says: "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him" (Acts 10,34-34).

To fear God and to practise justice, to learn this and thus to open the world to the Kingdom of God - this is the most profound purpose of every inter-religious dialog.

I cannot conclude this Marian prayer without turning my thoughts to Sri Lanka, to express assurances of my affection for and spiritual closeness to the civilians in the combat zones in the northern part of the country.

They include thousands of children, women and aged people whom the war has deprived of years of life and hope.

In this respect, I wish once more to address an urgent invitation to the belligerents to facilitate the evacuation [of these civilians], and to this end, I add my voice to the appeal made by the Security Council of the United Nations a few days ago which asked for guarantees for their safety and security.

Moreover, I ask humanitarian institutions, including Catholic ones, to spare no attempt to meet the urgent food and medical needs of the refugees.

I entrust that beloved country to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin of Madhu, who is loved and venerated by all Sri Lankans, and I raise my prayers to the Lord so that he may hasten the day of reconciliation and peace

Thanks to Caterina for the montage - Papino is so beautiful!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/19/2009 9:12 AM]