BY Ian Dunn | January 10 2014 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Papal Holy Land visit is ‘cry for peace’

Positive reaction from region’s religious and political leaders ahead of peace talks

Pope Francis’ announcement that he will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May has been met with great joy and hope by the region’s religious and political leaders.

The Holy Father said on Sunday that the aim of the trip will be to foster greater unity between the Catholic and Orthodox churches and help bring peace to the troubled region.

“In this atmosphere of joy I wish to announce that from May 24-26, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage in the Holy Land,” the Pope said after his Angelus at St Peter’s Square last Sunday.

Pope Francis will meet with the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, during the May pilgrimage. Along with representatives of ‘all the Christian churches of Jerusalem,’ the two leaders will celebrate an ecumenical meeting at the site of the Holy Sepulchre, which Christian churches revere as the place of Jesus’ burial prior to the Resurrection.

The Pope explained on Sunday that the ‘principal goal’ of the trip is ‘to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras I, that occurred precisely on January 5, as today, 50 years ago.’

In January of 1964, Pope Paul VI travelled to the Holy Land. He met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the Mount of Olives on January 5. This historic meeting led to an improved relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, including a momentous joint declaration issued in 1965 in which both leaders expressed their desire ‘to overcome their differences in order to be again ‘one’ as the Lord Jesus asked of His Father for them.’

Pope Francis requested spiritual support from the Faithful ahead of his visit to the Holy Land.

“Right now, I ask you to pray for this pilgrimage, which will be a pilgrimage of prayer,” he said.

The Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem welcomed the announcement of Pope Francis’ May visit to the Holy Land and said he hopes the pilgrimage will be a ‘cry for peace,’ particularly for Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians and others beset by conflict and inspire Christians not to leave the Middle East.

In addition to Jerusalem, the Pope will also travel to Bethlehem in the West Bank and Amman in Jordan, with all three governments welcoming the Papal visit.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported President Mahmoud Abbas hoped it would ‘contribute to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people who aspire for freedom, justice and independence.’ In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Palmor said Pope Francis ‘will be greeted as warmly as his predecessors were.’

A spokesman for Jordan’s Royal Palace said the Amman leg of the Pope’s visit would mark a ‘significant milestone for brotherhood and forgiveness between Muslims and Christians and consolidate the message of peace.’

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, Apostolic nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, said that while in Jordan the Holy Father would dine with Syrian refugees.  Archbishop Lingua also said the Pope expressed a wish to visit Damascus, Syria, to walk in the footsteps of St Paul, but due to security concerns he will be able ‘only in spirit, by heart and mind, to share the suffering of that country.’

However, the Vatican is to host a special conference to find new ways to bring peace to Syria next week.




—This story ran in full in the January 10 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.



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