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Saturday, May 9, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Having celebrated a private Mass at the apostolic nunciature in the Jordanian capital of Amman, the Holy Father travelled by car to Mount Nebo. The mountain, 806 metres above sea level, is the site of the Basilica of the Memorial of Moses, a fourth century structure built over an earlier monument dating from the classical age.

Since the year 1933 there has been a Franciscan monastery at Siyagha on Mount Nebo. It has areas in which faithful from the nearby city of Madaba can pray, and special buildings for archaeologists. The top of the mountain affords a unique view over the Holy Land.

At the beginning of his address, the Pope mentioned the Franciscan Fr. Michele Piccirillo, who died last year having "devoted his life to the study of Christian antiquity, and is buried in this shrine which was so dear to him". The Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land have had a presence on this site since 1932.

"It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this mountain, where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar", said the Holy Father. "Here, on the heights of Mount Nebo, the memory of Moses invites us to 'lift up our eyes' to embrace with gratitude not only God's mighty works in the past, but also to look with faith and hope to the future which He holds out to us and to our world".

Like the prophets, the apostles and the saints, we too, said Benedict XVI, "are called to welcome the coming of Christ's Kingdom by our charity, our service to the poor, and our efforts to be a leaven of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace in the world around us. ... And we know that the God Who revealed His name to Moses as a pledge that He would always be at our side will give us the strength to persevere in joyful hope even amid suffering, trial and tribulation".

"Here, in the footsteps of the countless pilgrims who have preceded us in every century, we are challenged to appreciate more fully the gift of our faith and to grow in that communion which transcends every limit of language, race and culture".

The Pope recalled how "from the beginning the Church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the Old Testament, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two Testaments.

"May our encounter today inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of Sacred Scripture", he added, "and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and co-operation in the service of that peace to which the Word of God calls us!"

The visit to Mount Nebo over, the Pope travelled by car to the University of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, located 19 kilometres away in Madaba.

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