POPE FULFILLS DREAM AND ENDS PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND
March 26 (EWTNews)
The fulfillment of a dream of Pope John Paul II to follow the footsteps of Christ came to
a completion today as the Pope ended his historic trip to the Holy Land. After a seven-day
pilgrimage that included visits to both places from the Old and New Testament, which
"have seen God's interventions, which culminate in the mysteries of the Incarnation
and of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ," the Pope bid farewell.
At the Ben Gourion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, among a military
honor guard and military band, waving flags, cheering crowds, and after greeting
dignitaries, the Holy Father walked the red carpet on the tarmac accompanied by President
Ezer Weizmann and Prime Minister Barak, then climbed the steps to the airplane, waved
goodbye and boarded the airplane for Rome. What was for the Pope a personal pilgrimage
became for those living in the Holy Land and around the world, a pilgrimage for all during
this Great Jubilee Year.
Pope John Paul II began his pilgrimage in Jordan where he visited
Mount Nebo, from which Moses could see the Promised Land (cf. Dt 32:49), without the joy
of setting foot there but certain in the knowledge of having reached it. From that
mountain he could see that God had kept his promises and give to all generations a symbol
From there, the Holy Father journeyed to the banks of the River
Jordan, in the presence of 2,000 people, where he pronounced a prayer of blessing to the
Holy Trinity, recalling the Baptism of Jesus.
The Pope then traveled to Bethlehem, the place he
called "the heart of my Jubilee Pilgrimage" because
"here, Christ was born of Mary; here, He was proclaimed Lord; here,
He was adored by the shepherds and the Wise Men". While in
Bethlehem, His Holiness was able have time for private prayer at both
the Grotto of the Nativity, the place where Jesus was born of Mary, the
Mother of God and the Chapel of the Magi, which is the traditional site
of the manger.
From there the Holy Father went to Jerusalem, to the Cenacle near
Mt. Zion to celebrate a private Mass at the place where Jesus Christ initiated the
Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood, a sacrament of Love. This liturgical
celebration is the heart and soul of the Christian community as it is from the Eucharist
that the Church is born. The Cenacle has further significance in salvation history because
this was also the place where the Risen Christ appeared to the Apostles and the place
where the Holy Spirit descended upon the early Church on the day of the Pentecost.
The next stop for the Pope was Tabgha on the northwest shore of the
Sea of Galilee where he visited the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves. According
to tradition, this is the rock upon which Jesus placed the bread and later became the
altar of a church. The Holy Father then traveled to Capernaum and visited the Church of
the Primacy of Peter.
On Friday, he traveled to the nearby Mount of the Beatitudes to
celebrate Mass with 100,000 youth. It was here, on the green hills of Galilee that was the
heartland of Christs life and teachings, where the Apostles were called and the
Gospels delivered. It was here where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount giving
Christians the Beatitudes, and considered by John Paul II, in conjunction with the Ten
Commandments "the roadmap of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities
to God and neighbor."
On the Feast of The Solemnity of the Annunciation, Pope John Paul II
traveled to Nazareth to celebrate Mass "where the eyes of the whole Church were
focused". Prior to Mass, he was able for another opportunity for private prayer at
the Grotto of the Annunciation, the house where Mary lived and where the Angel Gabriel
appeared. It was here where Mary said "fiat". This Mass was chosen as the
location for the major address of the Popes pilgrimage to the Holy Land because of
the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh.
The Holy Father concluded his pilgrimage to the Holy Land by
celebrating Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Shrine that commemorates the
death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Other highlights of the Pope’s pilgrimage
included visits with the regions religious and political leaders, and
visits to Basil Boys School at the Deheish Refugee Camp at the outskirts
of Bethlehem, to Yah Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jews killed
in the Nazi Holocaust, with childhood friends from Poland who survived
the Holocaust, to the three holiest monotheistic sites in the City of
Jerusalem, especially the Western Wall where he prayed and placed a note
in its cracks asking for forgiveness.