.- Members of the Papal Foundation met with Pope Benedict on Saturday and heard him speak about his trip to the Holy Land later this week. He told the foundation that he will go as "a pilgrim of peace" to a land that has been marred by violence and injustice for 60 years.
Pope Benedict began the audience by greeting Cardinal William Keeler, the other cardinals and bishops present and the lay members of the foundation with St. Paulâs words-- "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Taking stock of the current state of the world, the Holy Father noted how "today's world is truly in need of His peace, especially as it faces the tragedies of war, division, poverty and despair."
As he prepares to embark on his journey to the Holy Land on May 8, Benedict XVI told the group, "I go as a pilgrim of peace."
"As you are well aware," he said, "for more than sixty years, this region - the land of our Lord's birth, death and Resurrection; a sacred place for the world's three great monotheistic religions - has been plagued by violence and injustice. This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear - often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. "
"As I prepare for this significant journey," he added, "I ask in a special way that you join me in prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region. May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace."
Every year since its founding in 1990, members of the Papal Foundation have traveled to Rome to give the Pope a donation for his charitable activities. This year, Pope Benedict noted that their meeting is taking place "during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation."
"At moments such as these it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties. As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard," the Holy Father said.
"Rather than turning in on ourselves, we must continue to be beacons of hope, strength and support for others, most especially those who have no one to watch over or assist them," he exhorted.
The Pope thanked the foundationâs members for their "sacrifice and dedication" and expressed his gratitude. Their generosity, he said, enables "the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed."