SONS OF ABRAHAM MEET TO PRAY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM

The Pope arrived at Notre Dame accompanied by the Chief Rabbi and Vice-Supreme Judge for the interreligious meeting with the theme "pray for the peace of Jerusalem". On his arrival, the assembly made up of people from different walks of life and faiths welcomed the Holy Father with a long applause.

The meeting was introduced as an opportunity for people of goodwill from different religions to discuss and find a way for promoting peace. This welcome was also extended to all those present as all being descendents of the same father, Abraham. The moderator explained that the focus of the meeting would a common vision that all the different religions could support – children, as they are the hope for the future of this land.

Three children choirs representing the three monotheistic religions where introduced. Their performance was interspersed with speeches from the Jewish and Moslem representatives and the presentation of the various projects prepared by the children of Jerusalem.

The Pope began his speech by saying that in making his pilgrimage to the Holy Land he was "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."

He went on to say, "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."

"Each of our religions knows, in some form or another, the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" said the Pope. He expanded on this basic principle by adding, "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 image of God in every human being."

In commenting on the children who were a large portion of the participants in the ceremony, the Holy Father said, "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."

He ended his speech encouraging the different religions represented, "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)."

After the Holy Father’s address, the ceremony went on with the presentation of the song "Jerusalem for Peace" which was dedicated to the memory of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin and performed by an ensemble of Jewish and Arab performers and a combination of the three choirs. The meeting ended after an olive tree was brought to the stage by the representatives of the Jewish-Palestinian youths who had already met the Pope in Rome in September 1999 and to whom the Pope had promised to meet them in Jerusalem, a promise that was being fulfilled today.