In recent comments about the upcoming visit to the Holy Land by Pope Benedict XVI, the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said the Holy Father has made “a courageous decision” to make the trip in spite of the tensions in region.
Father Lombardi told Vatican Radio that the announcement is “great news.”
“Going to Jerusalem is the desire of all Israelis and all Christians. The ancient Israelis went up singing. Jesus resolutely went there to fulfill the will of the Father until the end. We go there as pilgrims to the holiest places, the places of encounter between God and men that have marked the history of our salvation.”
“The Pope also has this desire,” Father Lombardi said. “Although he has not been there before, he feels the need to be present as the head of a community of believers who can spiritually go on pilgrimage with him and through him to the places of the roots of their faith. This was the case for example with Paul VI, who began in the Holy Land the series of international trips of the Popes, followed later by John Paul II, thus sending unforgettable signs of reconciliation, hope and peace.”
“Now it is Benedict’s turn. His was a courageous decision, when there is much uncertainty about the political situation and internal division in various areas. There are continual tensions in a region with conflicts and where there recently was a war that devastated the Gaza Strip and deeply wounded the people,” Father Lombardi stated.
Faced with “shadows or indifference that appear to obscure the hard-earned dialogue between the Jewish world and the Catholic Church,” Father Lombardi said, “it necessary to go [to the Holy Land]. Perhaps for these reasons it is urgent that he go.”
The Vatican spokesman said the trip would serve as an opportunity to pray for the most important aspects of the “confrontation between hatred and love: where reconciliation seems humanly impossible, in order to recall that the name and vocation of Jerusalem is that of being ‘the city of peace,’ of encounter between the nations in the name of a God of salvation, of peace and of love for all.”