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Monday, May 18, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 17 MAY 2009 (VIS) - Before praying the Regina Coeli this morning, the Holy Father dedicated some remarks to his recent visit to the Holy Land, thanking everyone who had helped to make "such an important apostolic trip" a success: The Latin patriarch; the pastors of the Church in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories; the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land; the civil authorities in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the forces of law and order. He also expressed his gratitude to all the priests, religious and lay people who had accompanied him on his pilgrimage or prayed for him.

"This pilgrimage to the Holy Places was also a pastoral visit to the faithful who live there, a service to the unity of Christians, to dialogue with Jews and Muslims, and to the construction of peace", said the Holy Father. "The Holy Land, a symbol of God's love for His people and for all humankind, is also a symbol of the freedom and peace that God wills for all His children".

Nonetheless, he went on, "the history of yesterday and today shows that this very land has also become a symbol of quite the opposite, that is, of interminable divisions and conflict between brothers. How is this possible? It is right that such a question should enter our hearts, even though we know that a mysterious plan of God touches that Land ... where He 'sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins'.

"The Holy Land" Benedict XVI added, "has been called a 'fifth Gospel', because here we can see, even touch, the truth of the history that God achieved with man: from the sites of Abraham's life to the sites of Jesus' life. ... Yet we can say more: the Holy Land by its very history may be considered a microcosm encapsulating God's demanding journey with humanity".

Pope Benedict then turned to consider the dramatic situation in Sri Lanka, giving assurances of his "spiritual closeness to civilians in the combat area in the north of the country: thousands of children, women and elderly people from whom the war has taken years of life and hope".

"On this subject", he added, "I would like once again to launch a pressing appeal to the belligerents to facilitate the evacuation" of civilians, "and to this end I add my voice to that of the United Nations Security Council which just a few days ago asked for guarantees for their safety and security".

He concluded: "I also ask humanitarian institutions, including Catholic ones, to use all possible means to meet the urgent food and medical requirements of the refugees".
ANG/HOLY LAND SRI LANKA/... VIS 20090518 (460)

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