.- Wrapping up his time in Nazareth, Pope Benedict prayed in the grotto of the Basilica of the Annunciation and then met with bishops, priests and laity in the church. The Pope, reminding Christians of the power of the Annunciation despite its apparent insignificance, encouraged them to remain in the Holy Land, assuring them that they "have a part to play in God's plan for salvation."
"It is profoundly moving for me to be present with you today in the very place where the Word of God was made flesh and came to dwell among us," Benedict began, after having prayed Evening prayer with the faithful.
He noted that when the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation 'came upon Mary,' God permanently established a new relationship with us. But this narrative "illustrates God's extraordinary courtesy," since "He does not impose himself, he does not simply pre-determine the part that Mary will play in his plan for our salvation: he first seeks her consent."
Aware of the plight of the Christian community in the Holy Land, the Pope said, "when we reflect on this joyful mystery, it gives us hope, the sure hope that God will continue to reach into our history, to act with creative power so as to achieve goals which by human reckoning seem impossible."
"In the state of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Christians form a minority of the population. Perhaps at times you feel that your voice counts for little," the Holy Father surmised, while noting that their situation calls to mind the "young virgin Mary, who led a hidden life in Nazareth."
Christians in the Holy Land should draw strength from God as Mary did in her famous prayer the Magnificat, the Pope said.
"Have the confidence to be faithful to Christ and to remain here in the land that he sanctified with his own presence!" the Holy Father entreated his fellow Christians.
"Like Mary, you have a part to play in God's plan for salvation, by bringing Christ forth into the world, by bearing witness to him and spreading his message of peace and unity."
Benedict XVI finished his words to the crowd by calling on Christians to be unified in faith, hope and love and adding that he prays for them "constantly."