.- Expressing his sorrow for the current situation in the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI hoped and prayed for peace in the region on Palm Sunday. He provided words of encouragement for Christians in the area and reflected on the nature of the pilgrim as a "messenger of peace."
In his Italian-language greeting after the Angelus, the Pope drew attention to Jerusalem, Jesus' destination in Sunday's Liturgy. He said he is "profoundly pained" by the recent conflicts and tensions in the city, which he called "the spiritual homeland of Christians, Jews and Muslims."
This city is the "prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation that God desires for the entire human family," noted the Pope.
"Peace," he continued, "is a gift that God entrusts to human responsibility, so that it is cultivated through dialogue and respect for the rights of all, reconciliation and forgiveness.
"We pray, then, so that those responsible for the fate of Jerusalem undertake courageously the way of peace and follow it with perseverance!"
In his Palm Sunday homily just minutes earlier, reflecting on his Apostolic Journey to the Holy Land last year, Benedict XVI made observations regarding the significance of a Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In addition to seeking to understand the actual places the Son of God lived, a pilgrim makes the trip to be a "messenger of peace" and with his prayer he invites "everyone to do... everything possible so that it becomes a true place of peace."
The pilgrimage also provides "encouragement for Christians to remain in the country of their origins and to work intensely in it for peace."
Christians, a minority in Jerusalem, have been fleeing the city in recent years due to persecution and the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
During the post-Angelus greetings, the Holy Father also expressed his support for the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day to be observed on April 2.