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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pope - 'pilgrim of peace' in Holy Land

Vatican, May 4, 2009.  Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Israel next week as "a pilgrim of peace," he told a group of American philanthropists at a May 2 audience. The Holy Father told members of the Papal Foundation that the Holy Land "has been plagued by violence and injustice," creating "a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty, and fear - often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother."

Facing these problems – which are aggravated by the worldwide economic crisis – the people of the Holy Land are badly in need of Christ’s message of peace, the Pope told his American gusts. He asked prayers for the success of his mission and for the people he would visit. “May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope, and peace,” he prayed.

Meanwhile, more than 100 rabbis have signed “United in Our Age,” a statement welcoming Pope Benedict to Israel.

“We - rabbis and Jewish leaders - warmly welcome you and your mission of peace to Israel,” the statement says. “With one voice, we are united in our commitment to interreligious dialogue, to opening more paths to increased understanding, and to continually recognize and strengthen the important relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide.”

On another development, the Vatican downplays the tensions for the papal trip to Israel. Briefing reporters on May 4, a week in advance of the trip by Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, the apostolic nuncio in the Holy Land, said that the papal visit should not be a time to call attention to controversies, but to promote warmer relations among peoples.

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