Spokesman: Pope's Trip Is for Peace, Not Politics

Insists Holy Land Journey Is a Pilgrimage

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s May 8-15 trip to the Holy Land is a pilgrimage, not a political event, a Vatican spokesman reiterated.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, spoke of the upcoming papal pilgrimage on the most recent edition of Vatican Television’s «Octava Dies.»

He called the journey the «most awaited» trip the Pope has made thus far, and possibly the «most binding.»

Father Lombardi clarified that it is «above all a journey of faith,» even if events in the Middle East are always interpreted in a political key.

«The spiritual desire of every Christian has become a spontaneous priority for the Pontiffs ever since their international trips have become a concrete possibility,» Father Lombardi contended. «It was not a coincidence that precisely Paul VI’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the first of all these trips. It was a truly historical moment and one of grace for the Catholic Church that celebrated the Council, because of the ecumenical path in the encounter with Patriarch Athenagorus, and because of the invocation for peace between the peoples of the region and the world.»

«John Paul II,» he added, «had to wait a lot of time before fulfilling the desire for this pilgrimage, but afterward he had the joy of making it with serenity, in the heart of the Great Jubilee, the true culmination of his grand pontificate, with moments of sublimely intense prayer and with memorable gestures of friendship and closeness with the Jewish and Palestinian people and with their past and present sufferings.»

Now that it is Benedict XVI’s turn, the spokesman acknowledged, the «political situation in the area is very uncertain, and also the possibilities of peace are fragile. But the Pope all the same sets out, with an admirable courage that is based on faith, to speak of reconciliation and peace.»

«All of us,» he affirmed, «should accompany him not only with ordinary prayer, but also with that spiritual movement that John Paul II called the ‘great prayer’ — so that the Church is renewed in its sources, so that the union between Christians grows closer, and so that hate finally gives way to reconciliation.»

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