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Monday, May 18, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Given below are the words used by the Holy Father at his meeting with journalists during his return flight to Rome yesterday, following his pilgrimage to the Holy Land which lasted from 8 to 15 May.

"Dear friends, thank you for your work", the Pope told the journalists. "I can imagine how difficult it must have been, with so many problems and transfers, etc. Yet I would like to thank you for accepting all these difficulties in order to inform the world about this pilgrimage and thus encourage others to visit those holy sites.

"I already gave a brief summary of this trip in my address at the airport, and I do not want to add much. I could cite many details: the moving descent to the lowest point on earth, on the River Jordan, which for us was also a symbol of the descent of God, the descent of Christ into the deepest areas of human existence.

"The Cenacle, where the Lord gave us the Eucharist, where the Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, took place; also the Holy Sepulchre and many other impressions, but I do not think this is the moment to dwell upon them.

"Yet nonetheless I could make a brief mention. I had three fundamental impressions. The first was that everywhere I went - in all areas, Muslim, Christian, Jewish - I found a decided openness to inter-religious dialogue, to encounter, to collaboration among religions. It is important that everyone should see this not just as an action, let us say, inspired by political motives in the particular situation, but as the fruit of a shared nucleus of faith; because to believe in the one God Who created us all and is Father of us all, to believe in this God Who created humankind as a family, to believe that God is love and wants love to be the dominant force in the world, implicates this coming together, this need for encounter, for dialogue, for collaboration as a requirement of faith itself.

"The second point is that I found a truly encouraging ecumenical atmosphere. We held many very cordial meetings with the Orthodox world; I was also able to speak to a representative of the Anglican Church and two Lutheran representatives. It is evident that this atmosphere of the Holy Land also encourages ecumenism.

"Thirdly, great difficulties exist - we know it, we saw it and we felt it. Yet I also saw that there is a profound desire for peace on all sides. The difficulties are more visible, and we must not hide them, they exist and they must be clarified. Yet what is not so visible is the shared desire for peace and brotherhood, and I feel we must also speak of this, encourage everyone in this desire to find the solutions, the by-no-means-easy solutions, to these difficulties.

"I came as a pilgrim of peace. Pilgrimage is an essential element in many religions: in Islam, in Judaism, in Christianity. It is also the image of our own lives, which are a march forwards towards God and thus towards the communion of humankind.

"I came as a pilgrim and I hope that many will follow this example, thus encouraging the unity of the people of this Holy Land and becoming in their turn messengers of peace. Thank you!"

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