"Even though the name Jerusalem means 'city of peace,' it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land,” Pope Benedict said in Israel, as he called for “every possible avenue” to be pursued to find peace.
The Pope was welcomed to Israel at Ben Gurion International Airport by a military honor guard, a cadre of religious and civil officials and Israel's president, Shimon Peres on Monday morning.
Benedict XVI delivered a speech in which he first noted that he stands “in a long line of Christian pilgrims to these shores, a line that stretches back to the earliest centuries of the Church’s history ... I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace – peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world.”
Pointing to the shared belief in every person's human dignity, the Pope said, “Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life. When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalized, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy.”
This reflection on human dignity led the Holy Father to condemn anti-Semitism, which he said “continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world.”
“This is totally unacceptable,” he stated. “Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.”
He also underscored the fact that “Even though the name Jerusalem means 'city of peace,' it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land.”
Saying that the “eyes of the world are upon the peoples of this region as they struggle to achieve a just and lasting solution to conflicts that have caused so much suffering,” Pope Benedict emphasized that the future of many depends on “the outcome of negotiations for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“In union with people of good will everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders. In this regard, I hope and pray that a climate of greater trust can soon be created that will enable the parties to make real progress along the road to peace and stability.”
The Holy Father also offered a special greeting to the Catholics present. Pointing out that he will join in the closing ceremony for the Year of the Family in Nazareth, the Pope stressed the important role of the family in contributing to peace.
Later this afternoon the Pope will visit the Holocaust Memorial at the Yad Vashem Museum.