Pope Benedict begins his pilgrimage on Mt. Nebo
Pope Benedict visiting Mt. Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land
Pope Benedict visiting Mt. Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land

.- Standing on the mountain where Moses was shown the Promised Land, Pope Benedict XVI said “It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this mountain,” which should remind all Christians to “undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery to life and freedom.”

Mount Nebo, where tradition holds that Moses climbed to see the Promised Land before he died, was the scene of a prayer service and the beginning of Pope Benedict's Holy Land pilgrimage earlier this morning.

A crowd of about 50 dignitaries, Franciscan religious brothers and sisters, and a handful of bishops gathered in the remains of a third-century church as the Holy Father led the ceremony.

Speaking to the group, Pope Benedict noted the fittingness of starting his pilgrimage “where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar.”

“The magnificent prospect which opens up from the esplanade of this shrine invites us to ponder how that prophetic vision mysteriously embraced the great plan of salvation which God prepared for his People,” he said.

“Like Moses, we too have been called by name, invited to undertake a daily exodus from sin and slavery towards life and freedom, and given an unshakeable promise to guide our journey. In the waters of Baptism, we have passed from the slavery of sin to new life and hope.”

The Holy Father also emphasized that Christians are called to welcome the arrival of Christ's Kingdom by “doing our small part, in fidelity to the vocation that each of us has received … .”

The Church has “long commemorated” the patriarchs and prophets, the Holy Father noted as he prayed that “our encounter today [will] inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of Sacred Scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us!”

Following his address, those gathered prayed the “Our Father” and received a blessing from Benedict XVI.

Before leaving the mountain, Pope Benedict walked to a precipice overlooking the Jordan valley and gazed in the direction of Jerusalem for a few minutes.

On a clear day, Jerusalem can be seen from Mount Nebo. So perhaps this morning, when Pope Benedict gazed in the direction of the holy city, he thought ahead to his journey there on Monday. He remarked at the prayer service: “The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people.”

After speaking with members of his entourage, the Pope descended the mountain by car. As he went, he was greeted by wellwishers, local parishioners and a brass band comprised of Boy Scouts.

His next stop will be the new Catholic University of Madaba, where he blessed its cornerstone.

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