HOLY FATHER ARRIVES IN ISRAEL 

March 21st (EWTNews) As the Holy Father journeyed via airplane from Jordan to the Ben Gourion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, government officials and religiousdignitaries awaited for his arrival. Excitement filled the air as the Holy Father approached the door of the airplane and he was greeted with cheers.

The wet weather did not dampen or halt any of the welcoming festivities. After descending from the Royal Jordanian airplane, the Holy Father kissed the soil presented by a group of small children, as is a custom upon the Pope’s arrival into a new land and the band played both the Papal and Israeli anthems. The Holy Father seemed in good spirits as he greeted several dignitaries. Among those present were members of the Israel cabinet, Ezer Weizmann, President of Israel, Prime Minister Barak, religious leaders, Greek-Melkite Archbishop Boutros Mouallem of Haifa, Vice President of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, and Patriarchs and Bishops of the Holy Land and neighboring countries.

President Weizmann addressed the Holy Father on behalf of the people of the State of Israel, greeting him with the traditional Hebrew greeting "Baruch haba".

The Israeli President stated, "Many generations have passed since the beginning of our people's history, yet they seem to us like a short time. Only 200 generations since the emergence on the stage of history of a man called Abraham who left his home and native land and went to a place, which is today, this, my country. Only 150 generations have passed from the pillar of the fire that signaled the redemption of the Exodus from Egypt until the pillars of smoke that signaled the destruction of the Holocaust."

The Holy Father in his welcome address  stated that it was 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). The Pope stated that "it has been his personal desire to come to Israel to pray "in the most important place, 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).

The Pope thanked President Weizmann and the people of the State of Israel for welcoming him to their country. He commented that this journey is "a personal pilgrimage and the spiritual journey of the Bishop of Rome to the origins of our faith "the God of Abraham, of Issac and of Jacob" (Ex 3:15). The Pope as he is known, as a messenger of peace stated, "with a new-found openness toward one another, Christians and Jews together must make courageous efforts to remove all forms of prejudice."

In conclusion, the Holy Father reiterated his journey was 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." He then stated that it his desire to meet the faithful Catholic community that are present in the Holy Land and hopes his prayers will serve to encourage inter-religious dialogue between the Jews, Christians, and Muslims.