VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- There is a way out of the spiral of violence in the Middle East, says Benedict XVI, and it hinges on religious believers taking up the call God revealed to Abraham.
The Pope affirmed this today during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. He dedicated today’s address to a recap of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from which he returned last Friday.
The 82-year-old Pontiff went over step by step the major stops during his weeklong voyage, which included a marathon of activities and addresses — 29 in total. He said he continues to thank God for the pilgrimage, calling it a “great gift for the Successor of Peter and for the whole Church.”
The Holy Father repeatedly recognized the various trials plaguing the Holy Land, but he also affirmed: “In this Land blessed by God, sometimes it seems impossible to get out of the spiral of violence. But, nothing is impossible for God and for those who trust in him! Because of this, faith in the one God, just and merciful, which is the most precious resource of these peoples, should pour forth its treasure of respect, reconciliation and collaboration.”
Benedict XVI said that the way for the citizens of the Holy Land to break the cycle of violence is by fulfilling God’s fundamental commandment.
He explained: “Jerusalem is the crossroads for the three great monotheistic religions, and its very name — ‘city of peace’ — expresses the design of God for humanity: to make of it a great family. This design, announced to Abraham, was entirely fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who St. Paul calls ‘our peace,’ since he broke down the wall of enmity with the strength of his Sacrifice.
“All believers, therefore, should leave behind prejudices and a will to dominate and practice in harmony the fundamental commandment: to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
The Pope said that Jews, Christians and Muslims alike are “called to give witness” to this and “to honor with deeds the God to whom they pray with their lips.”
He said it was a wish for the fulfillment of this calling that he carried in his heart and in his prayer.
Benedict XVI also reiterated again his unquestionable condemnation of the Holocaust, the point that perhaps caused most strife during his week in the Middle East.
When the Holy Father visited the Yad Vashem Memorial on Monday, the first day of the Israel leg of his journey, he was later criticized by the Israeli press for not speaking out clearly enough on the Holocaust. Some commentators took issue with points such as his use of the word “killed” instead of “murdered.”
The Pope took the opportunity of today’s audience to once again express his, and the Church’s view: “A moment of intense recollection was, as well, the visit to the Yad Vashem Memorial, constructed in Jerusalem in honor of the victims of the Shoah. There we paused in silence, praying and meditating on the mystery of a ‘name’: Every person is sacred and his name is etched in the heart of the Eternal God. The tremendous tragedy of the Shoah must never be forgotten! It is necessary for it to always be in our memory as a universal admonition to the sacred respect for human life that always has an infinite value.”
As well, the Holy Father highlighted that a “priority objective” of his pilgrimage was his visit as the Successor of Peter to the Catholic communities of the Holy Land.
He noted that he was able to “meditate on our vocation to be one unit, to form one body and one spirit, to transform the world with the meek power of love.”
“It is true that this call is experiencing particular difficulties in the Holy Land,” the Pope said, “and therefore, with the heart of Christ, I repeated to my brother bishops his very words: ‘Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.'”