Pope Francis before his General Audience on Wednesday, greeted a Palestinian delegation hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Speaking to those gathered, the Pope told them that it was his hope “that your consultations may help to open a space of sincere dialogue for the benefit of all the members of Palestinian society, and the Christian community in particular, given its small numbers and the challenges it faces, especially with regard to emigration.”
The Holy Father emphasized that, “for the Catholic Church, it is always a joy to build bridges of dialogue with communities, individuals and organizations, adding that it was a particular joy to do so with Palestinian religious and intellectual leaders.”
Dialogue, said the Pope, “takes place at every level: with ourselves through reflection and prayer, in our families, in our religious communities, between different religious communities, and also in civil society.”
He noted that the primary condition of that dialogue was “reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be.”
The Pope remarked that The Holy Land was for Christians “the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind.” He also highlighted the fact that the culmination of this dialogue took place in Nazareth between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.
The Holy Father went on to say, “that dialogue continues in a unique way between Jesus and his people, in representation of humanity as a whole.”
Concluding his greeting, Pope Francis recalled the “kindness that the Authorities of the State of Palestine, who he said, “have shown to the Christian community, acknowledging its place and its role in Palestinian society.”
Pope Francis has appealed for respect for Jerusalem’s status quo according to the pertinent United Nations Resolutions regarding the city.
Speaking after his catechesis to the crowds in the Paul VI Hall during the weekly General Audience, the Pope said “my thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days”.
“At the same time, he continued, I would like to make a heartfelt appeal for everyone’s commitment to respect the city’s status quo, in conformity with the pertinent United Nations Resolutions”.
The Pope’s words of concern came on Wednesday ahead of an expected announcement by US President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Arab leaders have warned the move will create turmoil and trigger violence.
Describing Jerusalem as unique city which is “Holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims, who venerate the Holy Sites of their respective religions”, the Pope said it has a special vocation for peace.
“I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts” he said.
Earlier in the morning the Pope called for dialogue that respects the rights of everyone in the Holy Land and expressed his hope for “peace and prosperity” for the Palestinian people during a previously scheduled meeting with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders in the Vatican.
Please find below the English summary of the Pope’s address:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: My recent Pastoral Visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh was memorable for my encounter with those two great peoples and for a wide variety of fruitful meetings. Mine was the first visit of a Pope to Myanmar, a nation gradually moving towards a new experience of freedom and peace. At Mass, in the celebration with young people, in my encounter with interreligious leaders in that predominantly Buddhist country, and in my meetings with the state authorities, I stressed the importance of dialogue and cooperation in the building of a society in which everyone, with the exclusion of none, is accepted and respected. In Bangladesh, a country of Muslim majority, I reaffirmed the importance of dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims. I wished also to express solidarity with the country’s efforts to provide relief amid the crisis of the Rohingya refugees. A highlight of my celebrations with the Catholic community was the final Mass with young people, which was attended also by young followers of Islam and other religions. In this way, my Pastoral Visit ended in a sign of hope for Bangladaesh, for all of Asia, and for the whole world.