Pope Francis in Holy Land
“We are brothers, the children of the same Father: only if we recognize this, can peace come.” The pilgrimage of Pope Francis in the Holy Land came to a conclusion in the Vatican on Sunday, 8th June, the feast of Pentecost, with these words which are like a universal legacy for believers of all times. On 25th May, the Pope had invited “to his home” the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, to pray together for peace.
In one of Judaism’s most sacred places, the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Pope Francis chose the words from the book of Genesis. Words spoken by God, words of mercy uttered by a grief-wracked creator no longer able to recognize the being he made in his own image. A creature lost because of sin.
In a poignant and pinnacle gesture that evokes the image of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, prayed together Sunday inside the Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also known the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) for Eastern Christians.
On his arrival to Bethlehem Sunday morning, Pope Francis greeted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a plea for bravery in seeking peace. On his short car ride to one of Christianity’s most revered spots, Francis stopped and stepped out of his open-air vehicle at the massive concrete separation barrier built by Israeli government and surrounding three sides of Bethlehem.
In Manger Square next to the Basilica of the Nativity everything is almost ready: the stage and altar are there for the mass that Pope Francis will celebrate tomorrow, the 25th of May at 11:00 a.m. local time before around 10,000 of the faithful (including 4200 from the Galilee). Father Ricardo Bustos is waiting with anticipation: in a few hours he will embrace a friend.
Several hundred Christians from the Gaza Strip will be allowed to leave the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory to travel to the West Bank for Pope Francis's visit to Bethlehem May 25. In the meantime, volunteers from the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) have been hammering chips of concrete from the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian Territories to create a cross to give to the Pontiff.
"Woe to the violent, may God convert those who seek war, those who make and sell weapons!" The meeting between Pope Francis and Syrian refugees, poverty struck and disabled living in Jordan took place in Bethany on the Jordan, the church of the Baptism of Jesus. It was there, on the banks of the river, 2,000 years ago that John the Baptist was said to have preached to the people of Israel for the conversion of sinners, the Pharisees and criminals alike.
The International Stadium in Amman, Jordan, was filled to the brim for the arrival of Pope Francis as he kicked off the first leg of his Holy Land journey Saturday.“You begin your Holy Land pilgrimage with the warm friendship and sincere respect of all Jordanians. May your work be fruitful and bring peace, for blessed are the peacemakers.” King Abdullah II said in a statement prior to the pontiff’s arrival.
The Pontiff will plant an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane as a symbolic gesture, a forerunner of peace and prosperity for the Holy Land. “This tree is a symbol of peace, and we all hope that the pontiff’s visit will bring forth the fruit of peace,” says Fr. José Benito Choque, the Argentinian Franciscan of the Custody of the Holy Land who is responsible for the sanctuary.
The excitement over the visit of Pope Francis to Jerusalem is gradually building as the moment of his arrival approaches. One sees it in subtle signs: an intensification of security checks, heightened police attention in particularly sensitive areas. A completely different mood is felt in Bethlehem, where preparations are underway for the solemn mass on Manger Square scheduled for the morning of Sunday, May 25.
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