Pope Saw Mideast Trip as Tone-Setter, Says Prelate

Cardinal Sandri Recalls Pontiff’s Early Hopes

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ROME, MAY 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week is something he has wanted to do since the beginning of his pontificate, says the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri spoke about the Pope’s hopes for the pilgrimage as he participated in a book launch in Rome. Though the Holy Father is headed to the Holy Land first now, in the fifth year of his pontificate, the cardinal contended that this pilgrimage was among the first the Pontiff wanted to make.

«He had to make the trips that were already scheduled in the preceding pontificate,» the cardinal explained, pointing to World Youth Day in Cologne and the World Meeting of Families in Spain.

But, he added, the Pontiff’s «great desire as a first trip and, we could say, as the meaning of the whole of his pontificate toward Jesus, toward the Word of God, was to go to the Holy Land. The principal trip to set the tone of all of his pontificate was this one.»

The cardinal reiterated Benedict XVI’s intention to go to the Holy Land to promote peace.

«With his presence, the Pope is a bearer of serenity and of peace and [gives] a push to all those who are in charge of the actuality or the situation of those people,» the prelate said. «In this case, in the Holy Land, it implies an encouragement for the process of peace [that has been] so long and with so many difficulties.»

[Mercedes de la Torre contributed to this report]

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