Benedict XVI Requests Prayers for Holy Land Trip

Says “I Go as a Pilgrim of Peace”

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is expressing hope for reconciliation and peace among the people of the Holy Land, especially faced to his upcoming trip to that region.

The Pope said this Saturday in an audience with members of the Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation, currently headed by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, retired archbishop of Philadelphia.

The Pontiff affirmed that “the entire human race yearns for God’s grace of peace.”

“Today’s world is truly in need of his peace, especially as it faces the tragedies of war, division, poverty and despair,” he added.

The Holy Father noted his upcoming visit to the Holy Land, beginning Friday. “I go as a pilgrim of peace,” he affirmed.

He continued, “As you are well aware, for more than 60 years, this region — the land of our Lord’s birth, death and resurrection; a sacred place for the world’s three great monotheistic religions — has been plagued by violence and injustice.

“This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear — often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother.”

Benedict XVI asked his listeners to join him in “prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region” as he prepares for this “significant journey.”

He expressed the hope that the people he visits will “receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace.”

Work harder

The Pope also noted, “Our meeting this year occurs during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation.”

In these moments, he said, “it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties.”

He added: “As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard.

“Rather than turning in on ourselves, we must continue to be beacons of hope, strength and support for others, most especially those who have no one to watch over or assist them.”

The Pontiff acknowledged that the foundation, “through the great generosity of many, enables valuable assistance to be carried out in the name of Christ and his Church.”

He told its members, “For your sacrifice and dedication I am most grateful to you: By means of your support the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed.”

The foundation’s Web site explains that it seeks the Holy Father’s guidance in distributing aid funds for international needs of the Church.

Grants from the foundation “support the world’s poor, sick, and infirmed through the construction and operation of shelters for homeless adults and children, hospitals and other health facilities, the reconstruction of destroyed churches, the construction of seminaries and retreat houses.”

The aid goes toward “providing relief for victims of natural disasters, strengthening services for refugees and migrants, providing funding to pro-life programs, and residences for elderly priests and religious.”

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