Pope Greets Bearers of a "Benedictine Torch"

Initiative Symbolizes Support for Peace in Holy Land

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II encouraged Christians’ commitment to the Holy Land when he greeted pilgrims carrying the «Benedictine Torch of Peace,» lit a few days ago in Nazareth.

Italian faithful who came to St. Peter’s Square today accompanied by Archbishop Riccardo Fontana of Spoleto-Nursia will now take the torch to Nursia, birthplace of St. Benedict (480-547), father of Western monasticism and founder of the Benedictine order.

«I am pleased with your renewed commitment to concord among peoples,» the Pope said.

«I hope your region, land of St. Francis and St. Benedict, will be ever more aware of the spiritual values that have forged the thought, art and culture of Italy and Europe,» he said.

Organizers of the initiative said the torch is a symbol of that peace sought for the Holy Land, through the reconciliation proposed by St. Benedict’s values.

St. Benedict, a patron of Europe, succeeded in fostering coexistence among peoples through the principles summarized in his monastic rule.

The torch was lit by Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, in the Basilica of the Nativity, L’Osservatore Romano reported last Friday.

The Italian delegation in the Holy Land, which included Archbishop Fontana, met with the mayors of Palestinian and Israeli towns.

The initiative is meant to be a support for those Palestinians and Israelis struggling to «create a path of peace,» the Vatican newspaper explained.

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