TEL AVIV, Israel, MAY 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In Benedict XVI’s first moments on Israeli soil, he issued a condemnation of anti-Semitism as “totally unacceptable,” calling on all people to fight it by promoting respect for others.
The Pope stated this today in the welcoming ceremony upon his arrival from Jordan’s Queen Alia airport to the Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv.
He was received by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the civil authorities and bishops of the Holy Land. Netanyahu’s presence at the ceremony, a gesture traditionally reserved for heads of states, was a significant sign of respect for the Pontiff.
The Holy Father, along with the authorities of the country, received military honors while the Vatican and Israeli anthems were played.
In his speech in English, Benedict XVI affirmed that “the Holy See and the state of Israel have many shared values, above all a commitment to give religion its rightful place in the life of society.”
He continued: “The just ordering of social relationships presupposes and requires a respect for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whom Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life.
“When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalized, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy.”
“Tragically,” the Holy Father said, “the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person.”
He added, “It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honor the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude.”
Benedict XVI noted, “Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world.”
“This is totally unacceptable,” he asserted. “Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.”
“During my stay in Jerusalem,” the Pope said, “I will have the pleasure of meeting many of this country’s distinguished religious leaders.”
“May the words of Isaiah’s prophecy be fulfilled,” he said, “that many nations shall flow to the mountain of the house of the Lord, that he may teach them his ways, that they may walk in his paths — paths of peace and justice, paths that lead to reconciliation and harmony.”
Mission of peace
President Shimon Peres addressed the Pontiff, saying, “I see your visit here, to the Holy Land, as an important spiritual mission of the highest order: a mission of peace.”
He continued: “I appreciate your stances and your actions to bring down the level of violence and hatred in the world. I am certain that this will be a continuation of the dialogue between Judaism and Christianity in the spirit of the prophets.”
“I honor your efforts to feed the hungry and to quench man’s thirst for faith in man and in the Creator of the universe,” the president stated.
He added: “Our country is poor in resources, but rich in faith. Our country is half-desert, but we have built flourishing commerce on the strength of human capital, and a society seeking justice for every child born.”
Peres told the Holy Father: “Your visit here brings a blessed understanding between religions and spreads peace near and far. Historic Israel and the renewed Israel together welcome your arrival as paving the great road to peace from city to city.”
After the ceremony, the Pope traveled by helicopter to Jerusalem, where he was welcomed by the mayor, Nir Barkat. He then went to the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem by car, where he had a private lunch.
Benedict XVI later visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, rekindling the memorial flame and laying a wreath of yellow and white flowers at the site.
He expressed compassion for the victims, stating that they will be remembered by “all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again.”
The Pontiff met with Holocaust survivors in a solemn ceremony attended by President Peres and Parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin.
The Holy Father stated: “May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of Pope’s address at airport: http://zenit.org/article-25858?l=english
Full text of address at Yad Vashem: http://zenit.org/article-25860?l=english