Spokesman Lauds Pope's Commitment to Peace
VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman is calling Benedict XVI's upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land "decidedly courageous," as the region is enduring more tension than usual after the January conflict in Gaza.
The Pope is set to leave Friday for a weeklong trip to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, gave a briefing on the trip today, calling it the most complicated of the 12 international journeys undertaken by this Pontiff.
The spokesman echoed the affirmation made by the Holy Father himself on Sunday, saying the pilgrimage will give the Pope the chance to "confirm and encourage the Christians of the Holy Land who daily have to confront many difficulties."
Nevertheless, the political situation of the region is anything but tranquil, Father Lombardi noted, pointing to new governments in Israel and the United States, divisions among the Palestinians that are delaying elections, and tensions provoked by Iran.
"It is a set of situations in flux, and also of tensions, in which the Pope's trip presents itself as an act of hope and trust, so as to be able to make a contribution to peace and reconciliation," he said. "It seems to me that it is a decidedly courageous act and a beautiful testimony of a commitment to be able to bring a message of peace and reconciliation in difficult situations."
The spokesman recalled that many suspected the conflict in Gaza that closed 2008 and opened 2009 would force Benedict XVI to cancel the trip. Nevertheless, he said, the Holy Father wanted his pilgrimage to be a bid for peace.
This desire of the Pope sets the context for the appeal he made Sunday, speaking in English after praying the midday Regina Caeli with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square: "This Friday I leave for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where men and women first heard the voice of the Good Shepherd.
"I ask you all to join me in praying for the afflicted peoples of that region. In a special way I ask that you remember the Palestinian people who have endured great hardship and suffering. May the Lord bless them and all those who live in the Holy Land with the gifts of unity and peace."