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John Paul II's Jubilee Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Pope John Paul II was a pilgrim to Jordan, Israel and Palestine on his Jubilee Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, his 91st apostolic voyage.

Pope John Paul II's Address at the Welcome Ceremony
Ben Gourion Airport , Tel Aviv, 21 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear President and Madame Weizman, Dear Prime Minister and Madame Barak,
Dear Israeli Friends, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Yesterday, from the heights of Mount Nebo I looked across the Jordan Valley to this blessed land. Today, it is with profound emotion that I set foot in the Land where God chose to “pitch his tent” (Jn 1:14; cf. Ex 40:34-35; 1 Kgs 8:10-13), and made it possible for man to encounter him more directly.

In this year of the two thousandth anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ, it has been my strong personal desire to come here and to pray in the most important places which, from ancient times, have seen God’s interventions, the wonders he has done. “You are the God who works wonders. You showed your power among the peoples” (Ps 77:15).

Mr President, I thank you for your warm welcome, and in your person I greet all the people of the State of Israel.

2. My visit is both a personal pilgrimage and the spiritual journey of the Bishop of Rome to the origins of our faith in “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob” (Ex 3:15). It is part of a larger pilgrimage of prayer and thanksgiving which led me first to Sinai, the Mountain of the Covenant, the place of the decisive revelation which shaped the subsequent history of salvation. Now I shall have the privilege of visiting some of the places more closely connected with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Along every step of the way I am moved by a vivid sense of God who has gone before us and leads us on, who wants us to honour him in spirit and in truth, to acknowledge the differences between us, but also to recognize in every human being the image and likeness of the One Creator of heaven and earth.

3. Mr President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker. We all know how urgent is the need for peace and justice, not for Israel alone but for the entire region. Many things have changed in relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel since my predecessor Pope Paul VI came here in 1964. The establishment of diplomatic relations between us in 1994 set a seal on efforts to open an era of dialogue on questions of common interest concerning religious freedom, relations between Church and State and, more generally, relations between Christians and Jews. On another level, world opinion follows with close attention the peace process which finds all the peoples of the region involved in the difficult search for a lasting peace with justice for all. With new-found openness towards one another, Christians and Jews together must make courageous efforts to remove all forms of prejudice. We must strive always and everywhere to present the true face of the Jews and of Judaism, as likewise of Christians and of Christianity, and this at every level of attitude, teaching and communication (cf. Address to the Jewish Community of Rome, 13 April 1986, 5).

4. My journey therefore is a pilgrimage, in a spirit of humble gratitude and hope, to the origins of our religious history. It is a tribute to the three religious traditions which co-exist in this land. For a long time I have looked forward to meeting the faithful of the Catholic communities in their rich variety, and the members of the various Christian Churches and Communities present in the Holy Land. I pray that my visit will serve to encourage an increase of interreligious dialogue that will lead Jews, Christians and Muslims to seek in their respective beliefs, and in the universal brotherhood that unites all the members of the human family, the motivation and the perseverance to work for the peace and justice which the peoples of the Holy Land do not yet have, and for which they yearn so deeply. The Psalmist reminds us that peace is God’s gift: “I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends, and those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps 85:8). May peace be God’s gift to the Land he chose as his own!


Papa Giovanni Paolo II's Speech at Al-Maghtas
Wednesday 22 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Your Excellency, Dear Friends,

I am grateful for this chance to visit a place so steeped in history. For many thousands of years, this area around Jericho has been a human habitat. It is near here that we find the remains of the oldest city yet discovered. But its memory becomes still richer when we turn to Holy Scripture, which shows Jericho as a place which bears the footprint not only of man but of God himself.

In my mind I see Jesus coming to the waters of the River Jordan not far from here to be baptized by John the Baptist (cf Mt 3:13); I see Jesus passing on his way to the Holy City where he would die and rise again; I see him opening the eyes of the blind man as he passes by (cf. Lk 18:35-43).

Today Jericho has become a flourishing oasis in the desert. May the city which is so rich in memory also be rich in promise. May its progress announce the hope of the more peaceful future which the inhabitants of this place and all the peoples of this Land have desired for so long.

God bless you all!"

John Paul II's speech to the Chief Rabbis at Hechal Shlomo
Jerusalem , 23 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Very Reverend Chief Rabbis,
It is with deep respect that I visit you here today and thank you for receiving me at Hechal Shlomo. Truly this is a uniquely significant meeting which - I hope and pray - will lead to increasing contacts between Christians and Jews, aimed at achieving an ever deeper understanding of the historical and theological relationship between our respective religious heritages.

Personally, I have always wanted to be counted among those who work, on both sides, to overcome old prejudices and to secure ever wider and fuller recognition of the spiritual patrimony shared by Jews and Christians. I repeat what I said on the occasion of my visit to the Jewish Community in Rome, that we Christians recognize that the Jewish religious heritage is intrinsic to our own faith: "you are our elder brothers" (cf Address at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986). We hope that the Jewish people will acknowledge that the Church utterly condemns anti-Semitism and every form of racism as being altogether opposed to the principles of Christianity. We must work together to build a future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews.

There is much that we have in common. There is so much that we can do together for peace, for justice, for a more human and fraternal world. May the Lord of heaven and earth lead us to a new and fruitful era of mutual respect and cooperation, for the benefit of all! Thank you."

Pope John Paul II's speech at Yad Vashem Museum
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem , 23 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"The words of the ancient Psalm rise from our hearts:
“I have become like a broken vessel.
I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! –
as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'.” (Ps 31:13-15).

1. In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah. My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the War. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbours, some of whom perished, while others survived.

I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.

Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.

2. We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.

How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a Godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.

The honour given to the “just gentiles” by the State of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms, and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaim that evil will not have the last word. Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer’s heart cries out: “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'.” (Ps 31:14).

3. Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God’s self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.

As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The Church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the Creator inherent in every human being (cf Gen 1:26).

4. In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common father in faith (cf We Remember, V).

The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims of the Holocaust and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls. It makes us cry out:

“I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! – But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'.” (Ps 31:13-15)."

Pope John Paul II's address at an inter-religious meeting
Notre Dame Pontifical Institute, Jerusalem , 23 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Distinguished Jewish, Christian and Muslim Representatives,

1. In this year of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, I am truly happy to be able to fulfil my long-cherished wish to make a journey through the geography of salvation history. I am deeply moved as I follow in the footsteps of the countless pilgrims who before me have prayed in the Holy Places connected with God’s interventions. I am fully conscious that this Land is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Therefore my visit would have been incomplete without this meeting with you, distinguished religious leaders. Thank you for the support which your presence here this evening gives to the hope and conviction of so many people that we are indeed entering a new era of inter-religious dialogue. We are conscious that closer ties among all believers are a necessary and urgent condition for securing a more just and peaceful world.

For all of us Jerusalem, as its name indicates, is the “City of Peace”. Perhaps no other place in the world communicates the sense of transcendence and divine election that we perceive in her stones and monuments, and in the witness of the three religions living side by side within her walls. Not everything has been or will be easy in this co-existence. But we must find in our respective religious traditions the wisdom and the superior motivation to ensure the triumph of mutual understanding and cordial respect.

2. We all agree that religion must be genuinely centred on God, and that our first religious duty is adoration, praise and thanksgiving. The opening sura of the Qur'ân makes this clear: “Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe” (Qur'an, 1:1). In the inspired songs of the Bible we hear this universal call: “Let everything that breathes give praise to the Lord! Alleluia!" (Ps 150:6). And in the Gospel we read that when Jesus was born the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Lk 2:14). In our times, when many are tempted to run their affairs without any reference to God, the call to acknowledge the Creator of the universe and the Lord of history is essential in ensuring the well-being of individuals and the proper development of society.

3. If it is authentic, devotion to God necessarily involves attention to our fellow human beings. As members of the one human family and as God’s beloved children, we have duties towards one another which, as believers, we cannot ignore. One of the first disciples of Jesus wrote: “If any one says, 'I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). Love of our brothers and sisters involves an attitude of respect and compassion, gestures of solidarity, cooperation in service to the common good. Thus, concern for justice and peace does not lie outside the field of religion but is actually one of its essential elements.

In the Christian view it is not for religious leaders to propose technical formulas for the solution of social, economic and political problems. Theirs is, above all, the task of teaching the truths of faith and right conduct, the task of helping people – including those with responsibility in public life – to be aware of their duties and to fulfil them. As religious leaders, we help people to live integrated lives, to harmonize the vertical dimension of their relationship with God with the horizontal dimension of service to their neighbour.

4. Each of our religions knows, in some form or another, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Precious as this rule is as a guide, true love of neighbour goes much further. It is based on the conviction that when we love our neighbour we are showing love for God, and when we hurt our neighbour we offend God. This means that religion is the enemy of exclusion and discrimination, of hatred and rivalry, of violence and conflict. Religion is not, and must not become, an excuse for violence, particularly when religious identity coincides with cultural and ethnic identity. Religion and peace go together! Religious belief and practice cannot be separated from the defence of the image of God in every human being.

Drawing upon the riches of our respective religious traditions, we must spread awareness that today's problems will not be solved if we remain ignorant of one another and isolated from one another. We are all aware of past misunderstandings and conflicts, and these still weigh heavily upon relationships between Jews, Christians and Muslims. We must do all we can to turn awareness of past offences and sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be nothing but respectful and fruitful cooperation between us.

The Catholic Church wishes to pursue a sincere and fruitful inter-religious dialogue with the members of the Jewish faith and the followers of Islam. Such a dialogue is not an attempt to impose our views upon others. What it demands of all of us is that, holding to what we believe, we listen respectfully to one another, seek to discern all that is good and holy in each other’s teachings, and cooperate in supporting everything that favours mutual understanding and peace.

5. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim children and young people present here are a sign of hope and an incentive for us. Each new generation is a divine gift to the world. If we pass on to them all that is noble and good in our traditions, they will make it blossom in more intense brotherhood and cooperation.

If the various religious communities in the Holy City and in the Holy Land succeed in living and working together in friendship and harmony, this will be of enormous benefit not only to themselves but to the whole cause of peace in this region. Jerusalem will truly be a City of Peace for all peoples. Then we will all repeat the words of the Prophet: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. . . that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Is 2:3).

To re-commit ourselves to such a task, and to do so in the Holy City of Jerusalem, is to ask God to look kindly on our efforts and bring them to a happy outcome. May the Almighty abundantly bless our common endeavours!"

Papa Giovanni Paolo II's homily at Mass with Young People
Mount of the Beatitudes, Korazim, Friday 24 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"“Consider your calling, brothers and sisters” (1 Cor 1:26).

1. Today these words of St Paul are addressed to all of us who have come here to the Mount of the Beatitudes. We sit on this hill like the first disciples, and we listen to Jesus. In the stillness, we hear his gentle and urgent voice, as gentle as this land itself and as urgent as a call to choose between life and death.

How many generations before us have been deeply moved by the Sermon on the Mount! How many young people down the centuries have gathered around Jesus to learn the words of eternal life, as you are gathered here today! How many young hearts have been inspired by the power of his personality and the compelling truth of his message! It is wonderful that you are here!

Thank you, Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, for your kind welcome. Please take my prayerful greeting to the whole Greek-Melkite community over which you preside. I extend my fraternal good wishes to the many Cardinals, to Patriarch Sabbah, and to many Bishops present and all the priests. I greet the members of the Latin community, including the Hebrew-speaking faithful, the Maronite community, the Syrian community, the Armenian community, the Chaldean community, and all our brothers and sisters of the other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities. I extend a special word of thanks to our Muslim friends who are here, and to the members of the Jewish faith and to the Druse community.

This great gathering is like a rehearsal for the World Youth Day to be held in August in Rome! The young man who spoke promised that you will have another mountain, Mount Sinai. Young people of Israel, of the Palestinian Territories, of Jordan and Cyprus; young people of the Middle East, of Africa and Asia, of Europe, America and Oceania! With love and affection I greet each one of you!

2. The first to hear the Beatitudes of Jesus bore in their hearts the memory of another mountain – Mount Sinai. Just a month ago, I had the grace of going there, where God spoke to Moses and gave the Law, “written with the finger of God” (Ex 31:18) on the tablets of stone. These two mountains – Sinai and the Mount of the Beatitudes – offer us the road map of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities to God and neighbour. The Law and the Beatitudes together mark the path of the following of Christ and the royal road to spiritual maturity and freedom.

The Ten Commandments of Sinai may seem negative: “You will have no false gods before me; . . . do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness...” (Ex 20, 3, 13-16). But in fact they are supremely positive. Moving beyond the evil they name, they point the way to the law of love which is the first and greatest of the commandments: “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. . . You will love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22, 37, 39). Jesus himself says that he came not to abolish but to fulfil the Law (cf Mt 5, 17). His message is new but it does not destroy what went before; it leads what went before to its fullest potential. Jesus teaches that the way of love brings the Law to fulfilment (cf Gal 5, 14). And he taught this enormously important truth on this hill here in Galilee.

3. “Blessed are you!”, he says, “all you who are poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, you who mourn, who care for what is right, who are pure in heart, who make peace, you who are persecuted! Blessed are you!” But the words of Jesus may seem strange. It is strange that Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He says to them, “Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the true winners: the kingdom of heaven is yours!” Spoken by him who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11, 29), these words present a challenge which demands a deep and abiding metanoia of the spirit, a great change of heart.

You young people will understand why this change of heart is necessary! Because you are aware of another voice within you and all around you, a contradictory voice. It is a voice which says, “Blessed are the proud and violent, those who prosper at any cost, who are unscrupulous, pitiless, devious, who make war not peace, and persecute those who stand in their way”. And this voice seems to make sense in a world where the violent often triumph and the devious seem to succeed. “Yes”, says the voice of evil, “they are the ones who win. Happy are they!”

4. Jesus offers a very different message. Not far from this very place Jesus called his first disciples, as he calls you now. His call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts even now on this hill, the choice between good and evil, between life and death. Which voice will the young people of the 21st century choose to follow? To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.

In the end, Jesus does not merely speak the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He is the Beatitudes. Looking at him you will see what it means to be poor in spirit, gentle and merciful, to mourn, to care for what is right, to be pure in heart, to make peace, to be persecuted. This is why he has the right to say, “Come, follow me!” He does not say simply, “Do what I say”. He says, “Come, follow me!”

You hear his voice on this hill, and you believe what he says. But like the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee, you must leave your boats and nets behind, and that is never easy – especially when you face an uncertain future and are tempted to lose faith in your Christian heritage. To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in today’s world. But Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge. He is always with you to transform your weakness into strength. Trust him when he says: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12, 9)!

5. The disciples spent time with the Lord. They came to know and love him deeply. They discovered the meaning of what the Apostle Peter once said to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). They discovered that the words of eternal life are the words of Sinai and the words of the Beatitudes. And this is the message which they spread everywhere.

At the moment of his Ascension Jesus gave his disciples a mission and this reassurance: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . and behold I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28, 18-20). For 2000 years Christ’s followers have carried out this mission. Now, at the dawn of the third millennium, it is your turn. It is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. When God speaks, he speaks of things which have the greatest importance for each person, for the people of the 21st century no less than those of the 1st century. The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes speak of truth and goodness, of grace and freedom: of all that is necessary to enter into Christ’s Kingdom. Now it is your turn to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom!

Young people of the Holy Land, Young people of the world: answer the Lord with a heart that is willing and open! Willing and open, like the heart of the greatest daughter of Galilee, Mary, the Mother of Jesus. How did she respond? She said: “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1, 38).

O Lord Jesus Christ, in this place that you knew and loved so well, listen to these generous young hearts! Continue to teach these young people the truth of the Commandments and the Beatitudes! Make them joyful witnesses to your truth and convinced apostles of your Kingdom! Be with them always, especially when following you and the Gospel becomes difficult and demanding! You will be their strength; you will be their victory!

O Lord Jesus, you have made these young people your friends: keep them for ever close to you! Amen."

Saludos del Papa Juan Pablo II a los Jóvenes al final de la Misa
Monte de las Bienaventuranzas, Korazim, Viernes 24 de marzo de 2000 - in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

[In Italian] "Al termine di questa gioiosa Celebrazione Eucaristica, voglio ringraziare tutti voi, cari giovani, venuti numerosi da vicino e da lontano, come discepoli di Gesù, per ascoltare la sua parola. Partendo da questo Monte delle Beatitudini, ognuno di voi deve essere messaggero del Vangelo delle Beatitudini. Saluto in particolare i giovani neo-catecumenali che sono qui in gran numero da tutte le parti del mondo. A tutti dico, Cristo vi accompagni per le strade del mondo.

Vi accompagni anche Maria che - come ricorderò domani a Nazareth - col suo fiat cooperò al grande mistero dell'Incarnazione, di cui l'Anno Giubilare celebra i Duemila anni.
Dio vi benedica!"

[In French] "Je salue chaleureusement les jeunes francophones présents à cette merveilleuse rencontre au cours de laquelle, sur ce Mont, nous avons pu entendre de manière renouvelée la Bonne Nouvelle des Béatitudes. Je vous attends à Rome pour les Journées mondiales de la Jeunesse."

[In German] "Dirijo un saludo cordial a los jóvenes y a los peregrinos de lengua alemana. El monte de las Bienaventuranzas nos recuerda la exigencia de nuestra vida cristiana:  el programa del sermón de la Montaña. Que vuestro testimonio personal sea un ejemplo vivo de lo que Jesús predicó en este lugar."

[In Spanish] "Saludo con gran alegría a todos los jóvenes presentes de lengua española. Aquí, en Galilea, Jesús mismo nos ha enseñado el camino de las bienaventuranzas. Que la fuerza y la belleza de esta enseñanza llene vuestras vidas. Jesús os llama a todos vosotros a ser "pescadores de hombres". Él os dice a cada uno de vosotros:  "¡Ven y sígueme!". No tengáis miedo a responder a esta llamada, porque él es vuestra fuerza. En agosto os espero en Roma, para la Jornada mundial de la juventud."

"To the young people from the English speaking areas of the world and to all of you, I say: be worthy followers of Christ! In the spirit of the Beatitudes, be the light of the world!  I thank everyone who participated in the preparation of this
wonderful Mass. God bless you all!"

[In Polish] "Queridos jóvenes provenientes de Polonia, vuestra presencia aquí me alegra mucho. Es un signo de esperanza para nuestra patria. Así, muchos de vosotros estáis sentados hoy a los pies de Jesús, que es la esperanza de la familia humana. De sus labios habéis escuchado lo que significa ser realmente bienaventurados; lo que significa cumplir los mandamientos y vivir según el espíritu de las bienaventuranzas. No tengáis miedo a decir "sí" a Jesús y a seguirlo como sus discípulos. Entonces vuestro corazón se llenará de alegría y os transformaréis en una bienaventuranza para Polonia y para el mundo. Eso es lo que os deseo de todo corazón."

[In Hebrew] "A los jóvenes de lengua hebrea os digo:  sed constructores de paz. ¡Dios esté con vosotros!"

[In Arabic} "A los jóvenes de lengua árabe os digo:  sed constructores de paz. ¡Dios esté con vosotros!"

En estos días pienso con esperanza en las iniciativas de la Organización para la unidad africana encaminadas a restablecer la paz entre Etiopía y Eritrea. Estos esfuerzos han llevado a una fase muy delicada. Se trata de encontrar el camino que conduce a las condiciones necesarias para el bienestar y el progreso de los pueblos de la región entera, ya muy afectados por el hambre.
Pidamos a Dios que en esta parte del mundo se encuentre una solución justa."

Pope John Paul II's Homily at Mass      
Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth - Solemnity of the Annunciation
25 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word”

"Your Beatitude, Venerable Brother Bishops, Fr Custos,
Dearest Brothers and Sisters,

1. 25th March 2000, the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the Year of the Great Jubilee: today the eyes of the whole Church are directed to Nazareth. I have desired to return to the town of Jesus, to feel once again, in contact with this place, the presence of the woman of whom St Augustine wrote: “He chose the mother he had created; he created the mother he had chosen” (cf Sermon 69, 3, 4). Here it is particularly easy to understand why all generations call Mary blessed (cf Lk 2:48).

I warmly greet His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, and thank him for his kind words of introduction. With Archbishop Boutros Mouallem and you all – Bishops, priests, religious women and men, and lay people – I rejoice in the grace of this solemn celebration. I am pleased to have this opportunity to greet the Franciscan Minister General, Father Giacomo Bini, who welcomed me on my arrival, and to express to the Custos, Father Giovanni Battistelli, and the Friars of the Custody the admiration of the entire Church for the devotion with which you carry out your unique vocation. With gratitude I pay tribute to your faithfulness to the task entrusted to you by Saint Francis himself and confirmed by the Popes down the centuries.

2. We are gathered to celebrate the great mystery that was accomplished here 2000 years ago. The Evangelist Luke places the event clearly in time and place: “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. . . The virgin’s name was Mary” (1:26-27). However to understand what took place in Nazareth 2000 years ago, we must return to the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. That text allows us to listen to a conversation between the Father and the Son about God’s plan from all eternity. “You wanted neither sacrifice nor oblation, instead a body you prepared for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin. Then I said: "Behold, I come ... to do your will, O God! (10:5-7). The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that, by obeying the will of the Father, the Eternal Verb comes among us to offer the sacrifice which surpasses all the sacrifices offered under the former Covenant. His is the eternal and perfect sacrifice which redeems the world.

The divine plan is gradually revealed in the Old Testament, in particular in the words of the prophet Isaiah, which we have just heard: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold: the virgin shall conceive and will bear a son, who will be called Emmanuel” (7:14). Emmanuel: God with us. With these words is foretold the unique event that would be accomplished at Nazareth in the fullness of time, and it is this event that we are celebrating today with intense joy and happiness.

3. Our jubilee pilgrimage has been a journey in spirit, begun in the footsteps of Abraham, “our father in faith” (Roman Canon; cf Rom 4, 11-12). This journey has led us today to Nazareth, where we meet Mary, the most authentic daughter of Abraham. It is Mary, more than anyone else, who can teach us what it means to live the faith of “our father”. Mary is in many ways clearly different from Abraham; but at a more profound level “the friend of God” (cf Is 41, 8) and the young woman of Nazareth are very alike.

Both receive a wonderful promise from God. Abraham would become father of a son, from whom would be born a great nation. Mary would become Mother of a Son who would be the Messiah, the Anointed of the Lord. Gabriel says, “Behold, you will conceive and bear a son ... the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. . . and his reign will have no end” (Lk 1:31-33).

For both Abraham and Mary, the promise comes as something totally unexpected. God changes the daily course of their lives, overturning its settled rhythms and normal expectations. For both Abraham and Mary the promise appears impossible. Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren, and Mary was not yet married: “How is this possible?” she asks. “I do not know man” (Lk 1, 34).

4. Like Abraham, Mary is asked to answer "yes" to something that has never happened before. Sarah is the first of the barren women in the Bible who conceive by the power of God, just as Elizabeth will be the last. Gabriel speaks of Elizabeth to reassure Mary: “See: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son” (Lk 1, 36).

Like Abraham, Mary must walk in the dark, trusting in the One who has called her. However, even her question “How is it possible?” suggests that Mary is ready to answer "yes", notwithstanding her fears and uncertainties. Mary does not ask if the promise is realizable, but only how it will be realised. It is not surprising, therefore, that finally she pronounces her fiat: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). With these words Mary shows herself the true daughter of Abraham and becomes the Mother of Christ and Mother of all believers.

5. So as to penetrate even more profoundly into this mystery, let us return to the moment of Abraham’s journey when he received the promise. It was when he welcomed to his home three mysterious guests (cf Gen 18, 1-15), offering them the adoration due to God: tres vidit et unum adoravit. That mysterious encounter prefigures the Annunciation, when Mary is powerfully drawn into communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through the fiat pronounced by Mary in Nazareth, the Incarnation became the wondrous fulfilment of Abraham’s encounter with God. Following in the footsteps of Abraham, therefore, we have come to Nazareth so as to sing the praises of the woman “who bears into the world the light” (Hymn Ave Regina Caelorum).

6. But we have also come here to supplicate her. What do we pilgrims, on the journey into the third Christian millennium, ask the Mother of God? Here, in the town which Pope Paul VI, when he visited Nazareth, defined “The school of the Gospel. Here one learns to observe, to listen, to ponder, to penetrate the meaning, so deep and mysterious, of that most simple, most humble and most beautiful appearance” (Speech in Nazareth, 5 January 1964), I pray first of all for a great renewal of faith in all the children of the Church. A deep renewal of faith: not only a general attitude of life, but an conscious and courageous profession of the Creed: “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.”

In Nazareth, where Jesus “grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men” (Lk 2, 52), I ask the Holy Family to inspire all Christians to defend the family against the numerous threats that currently loom over its nature, its stability and its mission. To the Holy Family I entrust the efforts of Christians and of all people of good will to defend life and to promote respect for the dignity of every human being.

To Mary, the Theotókos, the great Mother of God, I consecrate the families of the Holy Land, the families of the world.

In Nazareth, where Jesus began his public ministry, I ask Mary to help the Church everywhere to preach the “good news” to the poor, just as He did (cf Lk 4, 18). In this “year of grace of the Lord”, I ask her to teach us the way of humble and joyful obedience to the Gospel in the service of our brothers and sisters, without preferences and without prejudices.

“O Mother of the Verb Incarnate, despise not my prayer, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen” (Memorare)."

Pope John Paul II's Greeting to the Consuls General in Jerusalem
25 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Esteemed Consuls General,
I am happy to have this opportunity to meet you and to encourage you in the mission that you carry out in this unique City and Land. You come from different countries and represent different peoples and political systems, but without exception you are pledged to serving the same great cause: the promotion of peace and understanding among peoples and nations.

In this important sphere, no accomplishment or gain - no matter how small it may seem - will fail to have a positive effect on the entire family of man. I encourage you to bring to your work all the energy of a deeply-felt ideal: that of building a world firmly based on solid foundations of peace, justice and respect for human rights and dignity. May God who is the source of our peace abundantly bless every effort aimed at securing an era of sincere understanding and cooperation among the nations of the earth.

God bless you and your families!"

Pope John Paul II's speech at an Ecumenical Meeting
Greek-Orthodox Patriarcate of Jerusalem, 25 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. With profound gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity I make this visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and I greet all of you in the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank Your Beatitude Patriarch Diodoros for your fraternal hospitality and for the kind words you have addressed to us. I greet Your Beatitude Patriarch Torkom, and all the Archbishops and Bishops of the Churches and ecclesial communities present. It is a source of great joy to know that the Heads of Christian communities in the Holy City of Jerusalem meet frequently to deal with matters of common interest to the faithful. The fraternal spirit which prevails among you is a sign and a gift to the Christians of the Holy Land as they face the challenges before them.

Need I say that I am greatly encouraged by this evening’s meeting? It confirms that we have set out on the path to knowing one another better, with the desire to overcome the mistrust and rivalry inherited from the past. Here in Jerusalem, in the City where our Lord Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, his words ring out with special resonance, particularly the words he spoke on the night before he died: “that they may all be one; .. so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17, 21). It is in response to that prayer of the Lord that we are together here, all followers of the one Lord despite our sad divisions, and all conscious that his will obliges us, and the Churches and ecclesial communities we represent, to walk the path of reconciliation and peace.

This meeting reminds me of the historic meeting here in Jerusalem between my predecessor Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, an event which laid the foundations of a new era of contacts between our Churches. In the intervening years we have learned that the road to unity is a difficult one. This should not discourage us. We must be patient and persevering, and continue to move ahead without wavering. The warm embrace of Pope Paul and Patriarch Athenagoras stands out as a prophetic sign and source of inspiration, urging us on to new efforts to respond to the Lord’s will.

2. Our aspiration to fuller communion between Christians takes on a special meaning in the Land of the Saviour’s birth and in the holy city of Jerusalem. Here, in the presence of the different churches and communities, I wish to re-affirm that the ecclesial note of universality fully respects legitimate diversity. The variety and beauty of your liturgical rites, and of your spiritual, theological and canonical traditions and institutions, testifies to the richness of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church, as it has developed down the centuries in the East and in the West. There exists a legitimate diversity which in no way is opposed to the unity of the Body of Christ, but rather enhances the splendour of the Church and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission (cf Ut Unum Sint, 50). None of this wealth must be lost in the fuller unity to which we aspire.

3. During the recent Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, in this Year of the Great Jubilee, many of you joined in prayer for greater understanding and cooperation among all Christ’s followers. You did so in the awareness that all the Lord’s disciples together have a common mission to serve the Gospel in the Holy Land. The more united we become in prayer around Christ, the more courageous we shall become in confronting the painful human reality of our divisions. The pilgrim path of the Church through this new century and the new millennium is the path traced out for her by her inherent vocation to unity. Let us ask the Lord to inspire a new spirit of harmony and solidarity among the Churches in facing the practical difficulties which beset the Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

4. Fraternal cooperation among the Christians of this Holy City is no mere option; it has a significance all its own in communicating the love which the Father has for the world in sending his only Son (cf Jn 3, 16). Only in a spirit of mutual respect and support can the Christian presence flourish here in a community alive with its traditions and confident in facing the social, cultural and political challenges of an evolving situation. Only by being reconciled among themselves can Christians play their full part in making Jerusalem the City of Peace for all peoples. In the Holy Land, where Christians live side by side with the followers of Judaism and Islam, where there are almost daily tensions and conflicts, it is essential to overcome the scandalous impression given by our disagreements and arguments. In this City it should be eminently possible for Christians, Jews and Muslims to live together in brotherhood and freedom, in dignity, justice and peace.

5. Dear Brothers in Christ, it has been my intention to give a clearly ecumenical dimension to the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000. The opening of the Holy Door at the Basilica of Saint Paul- outside-the-Walls, at which so many Churches and ecclesial communities were represented, symbolized our passing together through the “door” which is Christ: “I am the door, if any one enters by me, he will be saved” (Jn 10, 9). Our ecumenical journey is precisely this: a journey in Christ and through Christ the Saviour to the faithful fulfilment of the Father’s plan. With God’s grace the 2000th anniversary of the incarnation of the Word will be a “favourable time”, a year of grace for the ecumenical movement. In the spirit of the Old Testament Jubilees, this is a providential time for us to turn to the Lord in order to ask forgiveness for the wounds which the members of our Churches have inflicted upon one another down the years. This is the time to ask the Spirit of Truth to help our Churches and communities to engage in an ever more fruitful theological dialogue, which will enable us to grow in the knowledge of the truth and come to the fullness of communion in Christ’s Body. From the exchange of ideas our dialogue will then become an exchange of gifts: a more authentic sharing of the love which the Spirit unceasingly pours into our hearts.

Your Beatitude reminded us of Christ’s prayer on the eve of his passion and death. This prayer is his last will and testament, and it challenges us all. What will be our response? Dear Brothers in Christ, with hope-filled hearts and unfailing trust, let us make the third Christian millennium the millennium of our new-found joy in the unity and peace of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

John Paul II's greeting to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem & the Holy Land
Sheikh Akram Sabri, Sunday 26 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Eminence, Your Excellency, Distinguished Muslim authorities,
I wish to express my gratitude to you, in your capacity as Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Committee, for receiving me within the Haram al-Sharif which is connected with the memory of Abraham, who for all believers is a model of faith and submission to Almighty God.

This visit of mine, as you are aware, is essentially a religious and spiritual pilgrimage. Pilgrimage to holy places is a feature common to many religious traditions, especially to the three Abrahamic religions. I thank God revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Jerusalem is the Holy City par excellence. It forms part of the common patrimony of our religions and of the whole of humanity.

May the Almighty grant peace to the whole of this beloved region, so that all the people living in it may enjoy their rights, live in harmony and cooperation, and bear witness to the One God in acts of goodness and human solidarity. Thank you, all!"

Pope John Paul II's Prayer at the Western Wall
Jerusalem, Sunday 26 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"God of our fathers,
you chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring your Name to the Nations:
we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those
who in the course of history
have caused these children of yours to suffer,
and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves
to genuine brotherhood
with the people of the Covenant. Amen."

Pope John Paul II's Greeting to the Armenian-Orthodox Patriarch
His Beatitude Torkom II Manoukian, Sunday 26 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Your Beatitude,
It gives me great pleasure to visit you in your own residence, after having had the joy of meeting you in Rome on the occasion of the memorable visit of His Holiness Karekin on 1 December 1996. I cordially repeat the words I spoke at that time to the Catholicos Patriarch of All Armenians: "May the grace and cordiality of our meeting become like ‘a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts’ (cf 2 Pet 1:19)".

Our meeting today is yet another step forward which the Lord has granted us for the strengthening of ties between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. In this Jubilee Year when we pray more intensely that the Lord will grant us the gift of unity, may our friendship be like a prayer rising up to the Father like incense, like the fragrance of the evening sacrifice offered on the Cross by his beloved Son.

Your Beatitude, in visiting your home I feel like a brother in the midst of brothers who together are striving to build up the Church of Christ. I thank you for your gracious welcome, and I ask the Risen Lord to grant to you and to all the clergy and faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Holy Land his gifts of prosperity, joy and peace."

Pope John Paul II's Homily at Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem, Sunday 26 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"“I believe in Jesus Christ . . . conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. . . On the third day he rose again”

1. Following the path of salvation history, as narrated in the Apostles’ Creed, my Jubilee Pilgrimage has brought me to the Holy Land. From Nazareth, where Jesus was conceived of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have reached Jerusalem, where he “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried”. Here, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I kneel before the place of his burial: “Behold, the place where they laid him” (Mk 16:6).

The tomb is empty. It is a silent witness to the central event of human history: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For almost two thousand years the empty tomb has borne witness to the victory of Life over death. With the Apostles and Evangelists, with the Church of every time and place, we too bear witness and proclaim: “Christ is risen! Raised from the dead he will never die again; death no longer has power over him” (cf Rom 6, 9).

“Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando; dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus” (Latin Easter Sequence Victimae Paschali). The Lord of Life was dead; now he reigns, victorious over death, the source of everlasting life for all who believe.

2. In this, “the Mother of all Churches” (St John Damascene), I extend warm greetings to His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Ordinaries of the other Catholic Communities, Father Giovanni Battistelli and the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, as well as the clergy, religious and lay faithful.

With fraternal esteem and affection I greet Patriarch Diodoros of the Greek Orthodox Church and Patriarch Torkom of the Armenian Orthodox Church, the representatives of the Coptic, Syrian and Ethiopian Churches, as well as of the Anglican and Lutheran Communities.

Here, where our Lord Jesus Christ died in order to gather into one the children of God who were scattered (Jn 11, 52), may the Father of mercies strengthen our desire for unity and peace among all who have received the gift of new life through the saving waters of Baptism.

3. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2, 19).

The Evangelist John tells us that, after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples remembered these words, and they believed (cf Jn 2, 22). Jesus had spoken these words that they might be a sign for his disciples. When he and the disciples visited the Temple, he expelled the money-changers and vendors from the holy place (cf Jn 2, 15). When those present protested, saying: “What sign have you to show us for doing this?”, Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up”. The Evangelist observes that he “was speaking of the temple of his body” (Jn 2, 18-21).

The prophecy contained in Jesus’ words was fulfilled at Easter, when “on the third day he rose from the dead”. The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the sign that the Eternal Father is faithful to his promise and brings new life out of death: “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting”. The mystery is clearly reflected in this ancient Church of the Anástasis, which contains both the empty tomb – the sign of the Resurrection, and Golgotha – the place of the Crucifixion. The good news of the Resurrection can never be separated from the mystery of the Cross. St Paul tells us this in today’s Second Reading: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1, 23). Christ, who offered himself as an evening sacrifice on the altar of the Cross (cf Ps 141, 2), has now been revealed as “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1, 24). And in his Resurrection, the sons and daughters of Adam have been made sharers in the divine life which was his from all eternity, with the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

4. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20:2).

Today’s Lenten Liturgy sets before us the Covenant which God made with his people on Mount Sinai, when he gave the Ten Commandments of the Law to Moses. Sinai represents the second stage of that great pilgrimage of faith which began when God said to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12, 1).

The Law and the Covenant are the seal of the promise made to Abraham. Through the Decalogue and the moral law inscribed on the human heart (cf Rom 2, 15), God radically challenges the freedom of every man and every woman. To respond to God’s voice resounding in the depths of our conscience and to choose good is the most sublime use of human freedom. It is, in a real sense, to make the choice between life and death (cf Dt 30, 15). By walking the path of the Covenant with the All-Holy God the people became bearers and witnesses of the promise, the promise of genuine liberation and fullness of life.

The Resurrection of Jesus is the definitive seal of all God’s promises, the birth-place of a new, risen humanity, the pledge of a history marked by the Messianic gifts of peace and spiritual joy. At the dawn of a new millennium, Christians can and ought to look to the future with steadfast trust in the glorious power of the Risen One to make all things new (cf Rev 21, 5). He is the One who frees all creation from its bondage to futility (cf Rom 8, 20). By his Resurrection he opens the way to the great Sabbath rest, the Eighth Day, when mankind’s pilgrimage will come to its end and God will be all in all (1 Cor 15, 28).

Here at the Holy Sepulchre and Golgotha, as we renew our profession of faith in the Risen Lord, can we doubt that in the power of the Spirit of Life we will be given the strength to overcome our divisions and to work together to build a future of reconciliation, unity and peace? Here, as in no other place on earth, we hear the Lord say once again to his disciples: “Do not fear; I have overcome the world!” (cf Jn 16, 33).

5. “Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando; dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus.”

Radiant with the glory of the Spirit, the Risen Lord is the Head of the Church, his Mystical Body. He sustains her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the men and women of every generation, until he returns in glory!

From this place, where the Resurrection was first made known to the women and then to the Apostles, I urge all the Church’s members to renew their obedience to the Lord’s command to take the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. At the dawn of a new millennium, there is a great need to proclaim from the rooftops the Good News that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3, 16). “Lord, you have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6, 68). Today, as the unworthy Successor of Peter, I wish to repeat these words as we celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in this, the most hallowed place on earth. With all of redeemed humanity, I make my own the words which Peter the Fisherman spoke to the Christ, the Son of the living God: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”.

Christós anésti.
Jesus Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Amen."

Pope John Paul II's words at the Angelus
Jerusalem, Sunday 26 March 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
These have been days of deep emotion, days in which our souls have been stirred not only by the memory of what God has done but by his very presence, walking with us once again in the Land of Christ’s Birth, Death and Resurrection. And at every step of this Jubilee Pilgrimage Mary has been with us, lighting our pilgrim path and sharing the joys and sorrows of her sons and daughters.

With Mary, Mater dolorosa, we stand in the shadow of the Cross and weep with her over the affliction of Jerusalem and over the sins of the world. We stand with her in the silence of Calvary, and see the blood and water flowing from the wounded side of her Son. Realizing the terrible consequences of sin, we are moved to repentance for our own sins and for the sins of the Church’s children in every age. O Mary, conceived without sin, help us on the path to conversion!

With Mary, Stella matutina, we have been touched by the light of the Resurrection. We rejoice with her that the empty Sepulchre has become the womb of eternal life, where He who rose from the dead now sits at the Father’s right hand. With her we give endless thanks for the grace of the Holy Spirit whom the Risen Lord sent upon the Church at Pentecost and whom he continually pours into our hearts, for our salvation and for the good of the human family.

Mary, Regina in caelum assumpta. From the Sepulchre of her Son, we look to the tomb where Mary lay sleeping in peace, awaiting her glorious Assumption. The Divine Liturgy celebrated at her tomb in Jerusalem has Mary say: “Even beyond death, I am not far from you”. And in the Liturgy her children reply: “Seeing your tomb, O holy Mother of God, we seem to contemplate you. O Mary, you are the joy of the angels, the comfort of the afflicted. We proclaim you as the stronghold of all Christians and, most of all, as Mother”.

In contemplating the Theotokos, almost at this journey’s end, we look upon the true face of the Church, radiant in all her beauty, shining with “the glory of God which is on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4, 6). O Advocate, help the Church to be ever more like you, her exalted model. Help her to grow in faith, hope and love, as she searches out and does the will of God in all things (cf Lumen Gentium, 65). O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!"

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