Peace, unity at heart of Pope Francis’ Holy Land visit

NienstedtBlWhile most of us were off enjoying a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, made a whirlwind apostolic visit to the Holy Land.

On Saturday, May 24, the pope landed in Jordan, whose king has been one of the few tireless promoters of mediation with leaders, both religious and civil, of various viewpoints in the Middle East. What is more, the king has welcomed and supported countless refugees from Palestine and Syria.

So, it was appropriate for Pope Francis to meet and encourage the king and his government in the good work they are doing. The pope celebrated holy Mass at the Amman International Stadium, and in his homily invited the president of Israel and the president of Palestine to join him next month at the Vatican to pray for peace. Afterward, he met with refugees and young people with disabilities, joining some refugee families for lunch.

The next day, the pope traveled to the Palestinian territories and offered Sunday Mass in Bethlehem Square, where he also prayed his noon-day Regina Coeli. After that, he visited a refugee camp, where he greeted the children of those displaced families.

That same day, he flew to Israel where he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. This meeting marked the 50th anniversary of a similar meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which was the beginning of a warming of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches. The pope and patriarch this time celebrated a service together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then met afterward to express their common desire to continue praying and working towards unity.

Commenting on this experience afterwards, the pope recalled that:

“In that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, we all felt the bitterness and suffering of the divisions that continue to exist between Christ’s disciples, and this has really done great harm, harm to the heart. We are still divided; in that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, where Jesus gives us life, we are still divided. But above all, in that celebration so rich in mutual brotherhood, esteem and affection, we strongly heard the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to bring together all his sheep in one flock; we felt the desire to heal the wounds that are still open and to follow with tenacity the path to full communion.

“Once more, like predecessors, I ask forgiveness for what we have done to promote that division, and I pray that the Holy Spirit may help us to heal the wounds we have inflicted on other brethren. We are all brothers in Christ, and with the Patriarch Bartholomew we are friends, brothers; we have shared the desire to walk together, to do what we are able to do today; to pray together, to work together for God’s flock, to seek peace and protect creation, the many things that we have in common. We must move forward like brothers.”

On Monday, May 26, Pope Francis met with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on the Esplanade of the Mosques. He then paid a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, followed by courtesy visits to the two chief rabbis of Israel.

Finally, His Holiness had a meeting with the president of the state of Israel at the presidential residence. The day and visit ended with holy Mass with the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land in the Room of the Cenacle, the very site of the Lord’s Last Supper. This was preceded by a meeting with priests, religious and seminarians in the Church of the Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. The pontiff headed home on Monday evening after three very full, but historic days.

At his general audience last Wednesday, Pope Francis concluded his summary account of the visit by saying:

“With this pilgrimage, I wished to be the bearer of a word of hope, but I also received this in return! I received it from the brothers and sisters who hope ‘against all hope,’ amid the suffering of those who have fled their own countries on account of conflicts; of those who, throughout the world, are derided and discriminated against for their faith in Christ. Let us stay close to them! Let us pray for them, and for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East. May the prayer of all the Church also support the path to full unity between Christians, so that the world may believe in God’s love that in Jesus Christ came to live among us.”

My dear friends, let us respond to the pope’s invitation to pray for those who suffer in the Holy Land, to pray for a desire for peace among her civil leaders and to pray for a deeper unity between the followers of Jesus.

God love you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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