Pope's Words on Return From Holy Land Trip

«I Came as a Pilgrim and I Hope That Many Will Follow»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s remarks to the reporters that accompanied him on his return flight from the Holy Land to Rome on Friday.

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for your work. I imagine that it was difficult, with all the problems, traveling, etc., and I would like to thank you for having accepted all these difficulties to inform the world about this pilgrimage, inviting others on the pilgrimage in this way.

I already gave a brief summary of this trip in the speech at the airport; I do not want to add much. I could give many, many details: the moving descent to the lowest place in the region in Jordan, which for us is also a symbol of God’s descent, the descent of Christ into the deepest points of human existence.

The Cenacle, where the Lord gave us the Eucharist, where the Pentecost occurred, the descent of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Sepulcher, so many other impressions, but I do not think that this is the moment to [go into these details].

Perhaps there are three fundamental impressions: The first is that I found everywhere, in all the environments — Muslim, Christian, Jewish — a decisive will for interreligious dialogue, to meeting and cooperation between the religions.

And it is important that everyone see this not only as an action — let us say — with political motivations in the given situation, but as a fruit of the nucleus of faith itself, because believing in one God who created all of us, Father of all of us, believing in this God that created humanity as one family, believing that this God is love and wants love to the be dominating force in the world, implies this coming together, this necessity of meeting, of dialogue, of cooperation as a requirement of the faith itself.
Second point: I also found a very encouraging ecumenical climate. We had many very cordial meetings with the Orthodox world; I was also able to speak with a representative of the Anglican Church and two Lutheran representatives, and to see that precisely this climate of the Holy Land also encourages ecumenism.

And the third point: There are very great difficulties — we know it, we saw and felt it. The difficulties are more visible and we must not hide the difficulties: They exist, they must be cleared up. But the common desire for peace, of fraternity, is not as visible, and it seems to me that we must also speak about this, encourage everyone in this desire to find the certainly not so easy solutions to these difficulties.

I came as a pilgrim of peace. Pilgrimages are an essential element in many religions, so much a part of Islam, of the Jewish religion and of Christianity. It is also an image of our existence, which is a journey forward, toward God and thus toward the communion of humanity.
I came as a pilgrim and I hope that many will follow these paths and in this way encourage the unity of the peoples of this Holy Land and become messengers of peace. Thank you!

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