POPE ASKS CHRISTIANS AND JEWS TO "REMOVE ALL FORMS OF PREJUDICE"
John Paul II Arrives in Israel as Pilgrim in God's Footsteps
TEL AVIV, MAR 21 (ZENIT.org).- Finally, John Paul II sees his dream come true. Arriving
from Amman in a plane of the Royal Jordanian Airlines, the Pontiff landed at nightfall in Ben
Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where he was welcomed by the highest Israeli government officials,
among whom were President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
"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," the Holy Father said during the welcome
A rainy, windy evening robbed the meeting of serenity. The ceremony was graced with the
Vatican and Israeli flags. "Welcome to the Holy Land," Prime Minister Barak said firmly when he
greeted the Pope.
The Holy Father explained that his visit "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 that
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 honor 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
"I pray that my visit will serve to encourage an increase of inter-religious 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 that the peoples of the Holy Land do not yet have, and for which they yearn
so deeply," the Pope concluded, and raising his voice he said: "May peace be God's gift to the
Land he chose as his own!"
In his welcoming speech, President Weizman was also very frank. He thanked the Pope for the
petition for forgiveness, pronounced on March 12, for the anti-Semitism that on occasions some
children of the Church have expressed, and he described Jerusalem as the "heart of Judaism, city
of peace and pride of Israel."
John Paul II then returned to a waiting helicopter that took him to the Apostolic Nunciature in
Jerusalem, where he will spend the night. Tomorrow, Wednesday, he will go to Bethlehem, where
he will celebrate Mass in the Square of the Manger and later visit the grotto of the Nativity and
meet Yasser Arafat.