Speeches 2005-13 11259
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a kind gesture of hospitality President Peres has welcomed us here to his residence, enabling me to greet you all and to have this opportunity to share a few thoughts with you. Mr President, I thank you for this gracious welcome, and for your courteous greeting which I warmly reciprocate. I also thank the singers and musicians who have entertained us with their fine performance.
Mr President, in the message of congratulations which I sent to you on the occasion of your inauguration, I gladly recalled your distinguished record of public service marked by a strong commitment to the pursuit of justice and peace. This afternoon I wish to assure you and the new Government, and all the people of the State of Israel that my pilgrimage to the holy places is one of prayer for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all humanity. Indeed, I pray daily for peace born of justice to return to the Holy Land and the entire region, bringing security and renewed hope for all.
Peace is above all a divine gift. For peace is the Almighty’s promise to humanity, and harbors unity. In the book of the prophet Jeremiah we read: “I know the plans I have in mind for you – it is the Lord who speaks – plans for peace not disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jr 29,11-12). The prophet reminds us of the Almighty’s promise that he can “be found”, that he “will listen”, that he “will gather us together as one”. But there is a proviso: we must “seek him”, and “seek him with all our heart” (cf. ibid., 12-14).
To the religious leaders present this afternoon, I wish to say that the particular contribution of religions to the quest for peace lies primarily in the wholehearted, united search for God. Ours is the task of proclaiming and witnessing that the Almighty is present and knowable even when he seems hidden from our sight, that he acts in our world for our good, and that a society’s future is marked with hope when it resonates in harmony with his divine order. It is God’s dynamic presence that draws hearts together and ensures unity. In fact, the ultimate foundation of unity among persons lies in the perfect oneness and universality of God, who created man and woman in his image and likeness in order to draw us into his own divine life so that all may be one.
Religious leaders must therefore be mindful that any division or tension, any tendency to introversion or suspicion among believers or between our communities, can easily lead to a contradiction which obscures the Almighty’s oneness, betrays our unity, and contradicts the One who reveals himself as “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34,6 Ps 138,2 Ps 85,11). My friends: Jerusalem, which has long been a crossroads for peoples of many different origins, is a city which affords Jews, Christians and Muslims both the duty and the privilege to bear witness together to the peaceful coexistence long desired by worshippers of the one God; to lay bare the Almighty’s plan for the unity of the human family announced to Abraham; and to proclaim the true nature of man as a seeker of God. Let us resolve to ensure that through the teaching and guidance of our respective communities we shall assist them to be true to who they are as believers, ever aware of the infinite goodness of God, the inviolable dignity of every human being, and the unity of the entire human family.
Sacred Scripture also presents us with an understanding of security. According to the Hebrew usage, security – batah – arises from trust and refers not just to the absence of threat but also to the sentiment of calmness and confidence. In the book of the prophet Isaiah we read of a time of divine blessing: “Once more the Spirit is poured upon us… and justice will dwell in the wilderness and integrity in the fertile land; integrity will bring peace, and justice everlasting security” (Is 32,15-17). Security, integrity, justice and peace. In God’s design for the world, these are inseparable. Far from being simply products of human endeavor, they are values which stem from God’s fundamental relationship with man, and dwell as a common patrimony in the heart of every individual.
There is only one way to protect and promote these values: exercise them! Live them! No individual, family, community or nation is exempt from the duty to live in justice and to work for peace. And naturally, civic and political leaders are expected to ensure just and proper security for the people whom they have been elected to serve. That objective forms a part of the rightful promotion of values common to humanity and thus cannot conflict with the unity of the human family. The authentic values and goals of a society, which always safeguard human dignity, are indivisible, universal and interdependent (cf. Address to the United Nations, 18 April 2008). Thus they cannot be satisfied when they fall prey to particular interests or piecemeal politics. A nation’s true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, lasting security is a matter of trust, nurtured in justice and integrity, and sealed through the conversion of hearts which stirs us to look the other in the eye, and to recognize the “Thou”, as my equal, my brother, my sister. In this way does not society itself become the “fruitful field” (Is 32,15) marked, not by blocks or obstructions, but by cohesion and vibrancy? Can it not become a community with noble aspirations where all are willingly afforded access to education, family housing and the opportunity for employment, a society ready to build upon the lasting foundations of hope?
To conclude, I would like to turn to the ordinary families of this city, of this country. What parents would ever want violence, insecurity, or disunity for their son or daughter? What humane political end can ever be served through conflict and violence? I hear the cry of those who live in this land for justice, for peace, for respect for their dignity, for lasting security, a daily life free from the fear of outside threats and senseless violence. And I know that considerable numbers of men and women and young people are working for peace and solidarity through cultural programs and through initiatives of compassionate and practical outreach; humble enough to forgive, they have the courage to grasp the dream that is their right.
Mr President, I thank you for the courtesy you have shown to me and I assure you again of my prayers for the Government and all the citizens of this State. May a genuine conversion of the hearts of all lead to an ever strengthening commitment to peace and security through justice for everyone.
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The following is a summary of the gestures and words of welcome which preceded the delivery of the formal address given above:
"The Holy Father was greeted by three Israeli girls in English, Hebrew and Arabic and invited to taste a fig representing the “fruits from the State of Israel”. The young people also offered His Holiness a sheaf of wheat, developed at the Volcani Center of the Agricultural Research Organization, with the potential to produce a double yield. President Peres announced that this specially designed crop “contains an answer to starvation” and has been named after His Holiness.
His Excellency expressed his admiration for Pope Benedict as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. The President then thanked His Holiness for his address during the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. He spoke of his particular appreciation for the Holy Father’s words in regard to the Holocaust, its victims and anti-Semitism, saying that the speech “really aimed at the most difficult part of our life, the most penetrating problems”.
The Holy Father expressed his happiness to be in Israel, his deep appreciation for the cordial welcome and for the presentation of the “Wheat of Pope Benedict XVI” and the other gifts. His Holiness reiterated his conviction that Israel is a land very important for peace throughout the world, highlighting that “your prophets are our prophets” and “your fathers are our fathers”. In closing, the Holy Father expressed his hope that Christians and Jews would continue their efforts to understand one another as brothers and sisters, and so cooperate to promote peace throughout the world."
“I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name … I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off” (Is 56,5).
This passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah furnishes the two simple words which solemnly express the profound significance of this revered place: yad – “memorial”; shem – “name”. I have come to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honor the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names: these are indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again. Most of all, their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God.
One can rob a neighbor of possessions, opportunity or freedom. One can weave an insidious web of lies to convince others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try as one might, one can never take away the name of a fellow human being.
Sacred Scripture teaches us the importance of names in conferring upon someone a unique mission or a special gift. God called Abram “Abraham” because he was to become the “father of many nations” (Gn 17,5). Jacob was called “Israel” because he had “contended with God and man and prevailed” (Gn 32,29). The names enshrined in this hallowed monument will forever hold a sacred place among the countless descendants of Abraham. Like his, their faith was tested. Like Jacob, they were immersed in the struggle to discern the designs of the Almighty. 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!
The Catholic Church, committed to the teachings of Jesus and intent on imitating his love for all people, feels deep compassion for the victims remembered here. Similarly, she draws close to all those who today are subjected to persecution on account of race, color, condition of life or religion – their sufferings are hers, and hers is their hope for justice. As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I reaffirm – like my predecessors – that the Church is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of peace (cf. Ps 85,9).
The Scriptures teach that it is our task to remind the world that this God lives, even though we sometimes find it difficult to grasp his mysterious and inscrutable ways. He has revealed himself and continues to work in human history. He alone governs the world with righteousness and judges all peoples with fairness (cf. Ps 9,9).
Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!
As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood. It is the cry of Abel rising from the earth to the Almighty. Professing our steadfast trust in God, we give voice to that cry using words from the Book of Lamentations which are full of significance for both Jews and Christians:
“The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord” (Lm 3,22-26).
My dear friends, I am deeply grateful to God and to you for the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope.
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Religious Leaders,
It is a source of great joy for me to meet with you this evening. I wish to thank His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal for his kind words of welcome spoken on behalf of everyone present. I reciprocate the warm sentiments expressed and gladly greet all of you and the members of the groups and organizations you represent.
“God said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a land I shall show you’… so Abram went… and took his wife Sarah with him” (Gn 12,1-5). God’s irruptive call, which marks the beginning of the history of our faith traditions, was heard in the midst of man’s ordinary daily existence. And the history that ensued was shaped, not in isolation, but through the encounter with Egyptian, Hittite, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek cultures.
Faith is always lived within a culture. The history of religion shows that a community of believers proceeds by degrees of faithfulness to God, drawing from and shaping the culture it meets. This same dynamic is found in individual believers from the great monotheistic traditions: attuned to the voice of God, like Abraham, we respond to his call and set out seeking the fulfillment of his promises, striving to obey his will, forging a path in our own particular culture.
Today, nearly four thousand years after Abraham, the encounter of religions with culture occurs not simply on a geographical plane. Certain aspects of globalization and in particular the world of the internet have created a vast virtual culture, the worth of which is as varied as its countless manifestations. Undoubtedly much has been achieved to create a sense of closeness and unity within the world-wide human family. Yet, at the same time, the boundless array of portals through which people so readily access undifferentiated sources of information can easily become an instrument of increasing fragmentation: the unity of knowledge is shattered and the complex skills of critique, discernment and discrimination learned through academic and ethical traditions are at times bypassed or neglected.
The question naturally arises then as to what contribution religion makes to the cultures of the world against the backdrop of rapid globalization. Since many are quick to point out the readily apparent differences between religions, as believers or religious persons we are presented with the challenge to proclaim with clarity what we share in common.
Abraham’s first step in faith, and our steps to or from the synagogue, church, mosque or temple, tread the path of our single human history, unfolding along the way, we might say, to the eternal Jerusalem (cf. Ap 21,23). Similarly, every culture with its inner capacity to give and receive gives expression to the one human nature. Yet, the individual is never fully expressed through his or her own culture, but transcends it in the constant search for something beyond. From this perspective, dear friends, we see the possibility of a unity which is not dependent upon uniformity. While the differences we explore in inter-religious dialogue may at times appear as barriers, they need not overshadow the common sense of awe and respect for the universal, for the absolute and for truth, which impel religious peoples to converse with one another in the first place. Indeed it is the shared conviction that these transcendent realities have their source in – and bear traces of – the Almighty that believers uphold before each other, our organizations, our society, our world. In this way not only do we enrich culture but we shape it: lives of religious fidelity echo God’s irruptive presence and so form a culture not defined by boundaries of time or place but fundamentally shaped by the principles and actions that stem from belief.
Religious belief presupposes truth. The one who believes is the one who seeks truth and lives by it. Although the medium by which we understand the discovery and communication of truth differs in part from religion to religion, we should not be deterred in our efforts to bear witness to truth’s power. Together we can proclaim that God exists and can be known, that the earth is his creation, that we are his creatures, and that he calls every man and woman to a way of life that respects his design for the world. Friends, if we believe we have a criterion of judgment and discernment which is divine in origin and intended for all humanity, then we cannot tire of bringing that knowledge to bear on civic life. Truth should be offered to all; it serves all members of society. It sheds light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and suffuses reason with the strength to reach beyond its own limitations in order to give expression to our deepest common aspirations. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable, and opens the gateway to peace. Fostering the will to be obedient to the truth in fact broadens our concept of reason and its scope of application, and makes possible the genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.
Each one of us here also knows, however, that God’s voice is heard less clearly today, and reason itself has in so many instances become deaf to the divine. Yet that “void” is not one of silence. Indeed, it is the din of egotistical demands, empty promises and false hopes that so often invades the very space in which God seeks us. Can we then make spaces – oases of peace and profound reflection – where God’s voice can be heard anew, where his truth can be discovered within the universality of reason, where every individual, regardless of dwelling, or ethnic group, or political hue, or religious belief, can be respected as a person, as a fellow human being? In an age of instant access to information and social tendencies which engender a kind of monoculture, deep reflection against the backdrop of God’s presence will embolden reason, stimulate creative genius, facilitate critical appreciation of cultural practices and uphold the universal value of religious belief.
Friends, the institutions and groups that you represent engage in inter-religious dialogue and the promotion of cultural initiatives at a wide range of levels. From academic institutions – and here I wish to make special mention of the outstanding achievements of Bethlehem University – to bereaved parents groups, from initiatives through music and the arts to the courageous example of ordinary mothers and fathers, from formal dialogue groups to charitable organizations, you daily demonstrate your belief that our duty before God is expressed not only in our worship but also in our love and concern for society, for culture, for our world and for all who live in this land. Some would have us believe that our differences are necessarily a cause of division and thus at most to be tolerated. A few even maintain that our voices should simply be silenced. But we know that our differences need never be misrepresented as an inevitable source of friction or tension either between ourselves or in society at large. Rather, they provide a wonderful opportunity for people of different religions to live together in profound respect, esteem and appreciation, encouraging one another in the ways of God. Prompted by the Almighty and enlightened by his truth, may you continue to step forward with courage, respecting all that differentiates us and promoting all that unites us as creatures blessed with the desire to bring hope to our communities and world. May God guide us along this path!
Dear Muslim Friends,
As-salámu ‘aláikum! Peace upon you!
I cordially thank the Grand Mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, together with the Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, Sheikh Mohammed Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi, and the Head of the Awquaf Council, Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, for the welcome they have extended to me on your behalf. I am deeply grateful for the invitation to visit this sacred place, and I willingly pay my respects to you and the leaders of the Islamic community in Jerusalem.
The Dome of the Rock draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world’s three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing. Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony.
In a world sadly torn by divisions, this sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.
Since the teachings of religious traditions ultimately concern the reality of God, the meaning of life, and the common destiny of mankind – that is to say, all that is most sacred and dear to us – there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success. Yet we can begin with the belief that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy, since in him the two exist in perfect unity. Those who confess his name are entrusted with the task of striving tirelessly for righteousness while imitating his forgiveness, for both are intrinsically oriented to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the human family.
For this reason, it is paramount that those who adore the One God should show themselves to be both grounded in and directed towards the unity of the entire human family. In other words, fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally interrelated, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal. Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity.
This places a grave responsibility upon us. Those who honor the One God believe that he will hold human beings accountable for their actions. Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity. Undivided love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbor thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns. This is why we work untiringly to safeguard human hearts from hatred, anger or vengeance.
Dear friends, I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith. I thank God for this occasion to meet you as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, but also as a child of Abraham, by whom “all the families of the earth find blessing” (Gn 12,3 cf. Rom Rm 4,16-17). I assure you of the Church’s ardent desire to cooperate for the well-being of the human family. She firmly believes that the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham is universal in scope, embracing all men and women regardless of provenance or social status. As Muslims and Christians further the respectful dialogue they have already begun, I pray that they will explore how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family. In submitting to his loving plan for creation, in studying the law inscribed in the cosmos and implanted in the human heart, in reflecting upon the mysterious gift of God’s self-revelation, may all his followers continue to keep their gaze fixed on his absolute goodness, never losing sight of the way it is reflected in the faces of others.
With these thoughts, I humbly ask the Almighty to grant you peace and to bless all the beloved people of this region. May we strive to live in a spirit of harmony and cooperation, bearing witness to the One God by generously serving one another. Thank you!
God of all the ages,
on my visit to Jerusalem, the “City of Peace”,
spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,
I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations,
the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world.
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft;
send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East,
upon the entire human family;
stir the hearts of all who call upon your name,
to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him” (Lm 3,25)!
I am grateful for the invitation to visit Heichal Shlomo and to meet with you during this trip of mine to the Holy Land as Bishop of Rome. I thank Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger for their warm words of welcome and the desire they have expressed to continue strengthening the bonds of friendship which the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate have labored so diligently to forge over the past decades. Your visits to the Vatican in 2003 and 2005 are a sign of the good will which characterizes our developing relations.
Distinguished Rabbis, I reciprocate by expressing my own respect and esteem for you and your communities. I assure you of my desire to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation between the Holy See, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.
A great source of satisfaction for me since the beginning of my pontificate has been the fruit yielded by the ongoing dialogue between the Delegation of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church. I wish to thank the members of both delegations for their dedication and hard work in implementing this initiative, so earnestly desired by my esteemed predecessor Pope John Paul II, as he said during the Great Jubilee Year of 2000.
Our encounter today is a most fitting occasion to give thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings which have accompanied the dialogue conducted by the Bilateral Commission, and to look forward with expectation to its future sessions. The willingness of the delegates to discuss openly and patiently not only points of agreement, but also points of difference, has already paved the way to more effective collaboration in public life. Jews and Christians alike are concerned to ensure respect for the sacredness of human life, the centrality of the family, a sound education for the young, and the freedom of religion and conscience for a healthy society. These themes of dialogue represent only the initial phases of what we trust will be a steady, progressive journey towards an enhanced mutual understanding.
An indication of the potential of this series of meetings is readily seen in our shared concern in the face of moral relativism and the offences it spawns against the dignity of the human person. In approaching the most urgent ethical questions of our day, our two communities are challenged to engage people of good will at the level of reason, while simultaneously pointing to the religious foundations which best sustain lasting moral values. May the dialogue that has begun continue to generate ideas on how Christians and Jews can work together to heighten society’s appreciation of the distinctive contribution of our religious and ethical traditions. Here in Israel, given that Christians constitute only a small portion of the total population, they particularly value opportunities for dialogue with their Jewish neighbors.
Trust is undeniably an essential element of effective dialogue. Today I have the opportunity to repeat that the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path chosen at the Second Vatican Council for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews. As the Declaration Nostra Aetate makes clear, the Church continues to value the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews and desires an ever deeper mutual understanding and respect through biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues. May the seven Bilateral Commission meetings which have already taken place between the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate stand as evidence! I am thus grateful for your reciprocal assurance that the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate will continue to grow in respect and understanding in the future.
My friends, I express again my deep appreciation for the welcome you have extended to me today. I am confident that our friendship will continue to set an example of trust in dialogue for Jews and Christians throughout the world. Looking at the accomplishments achieved thus far, and drawing our inspiration from the Holy Scriptures, we can confidently look forward to even stronger cooperation between our communities – together with all people of good will – in decrying hatred and oppression throughout the world. I pray that God, who searches our hearts and knows our thoughts (Ps 139,23), will continue to enlighten us with his wisdom, so that we may follow his commandments to love him with all our heart, soul and strength (cf. Dt Dt 6,5), and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lv 19,18). Thank you.
I thank you for your words of welcome. I also greet the Patriarch Emeritus and I assure you both of my fraternal good wishes and prayers.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am happy to be here with you today in this Co-Cathedral, where the Christian community in Jerusalem continues to gather, as it has been doing for centuries, ever since the earliest days of the Church. Here in this city, Peter first preached the Good News of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, when about three thousand souls were added to the number of the disciples. Here too the first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Ac 2,42). From Jerusalem, the Gospel has gone out “to all the earth … to the ends of the world” (Ps 19,4), yet all the time, the Church’s missionary effort has been sustained by the prayers of the faithful, gathered around the altar of the Lord, invoking the mighty power of the Holy Spirit upon the work of preaching.
Above all, it is the prayers of those whose vocation, in the words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, is to be “love, deep down in the heart of the Church” (Letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) that sustains the work of evangelization. I want to express a particular word of appreciation for the hidden apostolate of the contemplatives who are present here, and to thank you for your generous dedication to lives of prayer and self-denial. I am especially grateful for the prayers you offer for my universal ministry, and I ask you to continue to commend to the Lord my work of service to God’s people all over the world. In the words of the Psalmist, I ask you also to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps 122,6), to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land. And now, I give you my blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 11259