Year in Review-May: Visit to the Holy Land

December 30, 2009.

In May, the pope visited Jordan, Israel and Palestine where he prayed for peace and unity among the Middle Eastern nations and among Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The first stop was Jordan, where he met with King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania.

Benedict XVI “My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community.”

He visited the largest mosque in Amman, where he was greeted by Prince Ghazi, one of the voices at the forefront of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The prince thanked the pope for apologizing for his statements on the prophet Muhammad in Germany.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad “It hardly needs to be said, moreover, that the Prophet Mohammad whom Muslims love, emulate and know as a living reality and spiritual presence, is completely and entirely different from the historical depictions of him in the West.”

The pope then travelled to Israel. He visited the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, which pays tribute to the six million Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Benedict said the tragedy must never be forgotten.

Benedict XVI “May the names of these victims never perish! May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this!”

He visited the Western Wall, a holy site of the Jewish faith, and placed a written prayer between the stones.

Then he travelled to the Palestinian territories, where he was greeted by Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke out against the Israeli wall and about the difficulties faced by Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Mahmoud Abbas President of the Palestinian National Authority “Here in the Holy Land, there are people that continue to build walls instead of building bridges... It’s time for the suffering to stop. It’s time for love and peace to prevail.”

Benedict XVI also visited a refugee camp in Bethlehem along the wall that separates Israel from Palestinian territory.

The pilgrimage concluded at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, which guards the places of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Pope made a strong appeal for peace among Jews and Palestinians. He asked the entire world to recognize Israel’s right to exist and repeated that the Palestinians have a right to an independent and sovereign state. He implored that a solution to both problems not remain merely a dream.