Pope Follows Moses' Footsteps, Shares His Mission
Father Atuire Reflects on 1st Stop of Papal Holy Land Pilgrimage
By Mercedes de la Torre
AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Popes share the same mission that Moses had: to lead people toward God, reflected a Vatican aide today as he commented on Benedict XVI's first full day in the Holy Land.
Father Caesar Atuire, the delegate administrator of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, spoke with ZENIT about the Pope's trip, under way in Jordan. The Holy Father made his first stop at a biblical site this morning, visiting the Basilica of the Moses Memorial on Mount Nebo. Tradition holds that at this spot, God showed Moses the Promised Land.
Father Atuire, who is accompanying the Pontiff during his weeklong pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, reflected on why Benedict XVI chose to start his pilgrimage on this mountain, which rises some 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level and offers a view of the Jordan Valley, Jericho, and on days clearer than today, Jerusalem.
"Each pope is like a Moses who goes leading the people toward the encounter with God," he said, recalling that the ultimate goal of every pilgrimage is to meet God. In the case of the Bishop of Rome, he added, the entire Christian people journeys beside him, as do the members of the press following him from stop to stop.
The place where Moses died is the privileged gate to the Holy Land, Father Atuire contended. "Every pilgrim that sets off toward Jerusalem, following the footsteps of the people of Israel who walked in the desert for 40 years, in beginning with Mount Nebo, completes the same itinerary in search of the city of God and the land that God has promised."
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AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming the continued unity of Christians and Jews in the ancient practice of pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Pope visited the Basilica of the Moses Memorial at Mount Nebo today, commencing his weeklong Holy Land pilgrimage. Tradition holds that it was here that God showed Moses the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the desert.
"It is appropriate that my pilgrimage should begin on this mountain, where Moses contemplated the Promised Land from afar," the Pontiff said. "Moses gazed upon the Promised Land from afar, at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. His example reminds us that we too are part of the ageless pilgrimage of God's people through history."
"From the earliest times," the Holy Father continued, "Christians have come on pilgrimage to the sites linked to the history of the Chosen People, the events of Christ's life and the nascent Church."
"This great tradition," he added, "which my present pilgrimage is meant to continue and confirm, is grounded in the desire to see, to touch, and to savor in prayer and contemplation the places blessed by the physical presence of our Savior, his Blessed Mother, the apostles and the first disciples who saw him risen from the dead."
"The ancient tradition of pilgrimage to the holy places also reminds us of the inseparable bond between the Church and the Jewish people," the Pontiff explained. "From the beginning, the Church in these lands has commemorated in her liturgy the great figures of the Patriarchs and Prophets, as a sign of her profound appreciation of the unity of the two Testaments."
"May our encounter today," the Pope concluded, "inspire in us a renewed love for the canon of sacred Scripture and a desire to overcome all obstacles to the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us!"
Father José Rodrígez Carballo, General Minister of the Franciscans living in the Holy Land, who welcomed the Holy Father, said, "You are not alone on this journey. We want to accompany you, or rather follow you, just as once the people of Israel followed Moses and were led by him."
"Today," he continued, "we still feel as though we are in the desert and we need someone who leads us to the Lord, someone who helps us get to know him as a provident and compassionate Father, as Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed him to us."
"Your Holiness, we entrust ourselves to you on this pilgrimage," the Franciscan priest declared. "Take our pleas to the Lord and address us again with that Word, which is the only one that can give us salvation."
In his remarks, the Holy Father thanked in particular Father Carballo and the Franciscan friars who minister to the Holy Land pilgrims for "their age-old presence in these lands, their joyful fidelity to the charism of St. Francis, and their generous concern for the spiritual and material welfare of the local Christian communities and the countless pilgrims who visit the Holy Land each year."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Text of Pontiff's address: www.zenit.org/article-25836?l=english
(IsraelNN.com) The Catholic Church and the Jewish people share an "inseparable bond," Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday. In a speech given from Mount Nebo in Jordan, the pope called for "the reconciliation of Christians and Jews in mutual respect and cooperation in the service of that peace to which the word of God calls us."
The pope plans to spend a week in the Middle East, during which he will visit Israel.