By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
While speaking to journalists during the flight back to Rome after his historic and eventful pilgrimage to the Holy Land last week, he cited the encouraging ecumenical atmosphere, the people’s openness to inter-religious dialogue, and their profound desire for peace as his most lasting impressions.
“I had three fundamental impressions,” he told journalists. “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.”
He said it was important that everyone see this openness not just as an action inspired by political motives, 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 impression he had during the trip was 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.”
His third impression was the profound desire for peace that he encountered on every side of the contentious Middle East world.
“Great difficulties exist – we know it, we saw it and we felt it,” he said. “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.”
He concluded: “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.”
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