National Catholic Register



BY Jim Cosgrove

April 9-15, 2000 Issue | Posted 4/9/00 at 1:00 PM


After the commemoration of Abraham and the brief but intense visit to Egypt and Mount Sinai, my Jubilee pilgrimage to the holy places led me to the Land that saw the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the first steps of the Church. The joy and gratitude that I bear in my heart for this gift from the Lord, which I longed for so much, are inexpressible. Having been in the Holy Land during the Second Vatican Council, I have now had the grace to go back there, together with some of my colleagues, in this Great Jubilee Year, bimillennial of the origins, the roots of the faith and of the Church.

The Promised Land

The first stop, on Mount Nebo, was in continuity with Sinai. From high atop this mountain Moses contemplated the Promised Land, after having accomplished the mission God entrusted to him, and before offering his soul up to God. I began my journey, in a certain sense, from this very gaze of Moses, taking note of the intimate suggestion that crosses the centuries and millenniums.

This gaze focused on the Jordan Valley and the desert of Judah, where, in the fullness of time, the voice of John the Baptist, sent by God as the new Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah, would resound. Jesus wanted to be baptized by him, revealing himself as the Lamb of God who took upon himself the sin of the world. The figure of John the Baptist started me in the footsteps of Christ. With joy I celebrated a solemn Mass in the Amman stadium for the Christian community living there. I found this community rich in religious fervor and fitting well into the social milieu of the country.


Leaving Amman, I stayed overnight at the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem. From there, the first stop was Bethlehem, that city which was the birthplace of King David three thousand years ago. Athousand years later, according to the Scriptures, the Messiah was born there. In this year 2000, Bethlehem is at the center of the Christian world's attention. It is from there that the Light of the Nations, Christ the Lord, emanates. From there ushers the announcement of peace for all who love God.

Together with my colleagues, the bishops from the region, some cardinals and numerous other bishops, I celebrated the Holy Mass in the central square of the city, which is attached to the grotto in which Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger. In this mystery the joy of Christmas and of the Great Jubilee was renewed. The prophesy of Isaiah seemed to be heard again: “Achild is born for us, a son has been given to us” (Isaiah 9:5), together with the angelic message: “I am bringing you news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

That afternoon I knelt with emotion in the grotto of the Nativity, where I felt the entire Church was spiritually present; all the poor of the world, among whom God chose to make his camp. This is a God who made himself an exile and refugee to bring us back to his house. This thought accompanied me while, before leaving the Autonomous Palestinian Territory, I visited in Bethlehem one of the many camps, where for too long more than three million Palestinian refugees have lived. May everyone's efforts finally lead to a solution to this sorrowful problem.


The memory of Jerusalem is indelibly written on my heart. Great is the mystery of this city, in which the fullness of time was made, so to speak, “fullness of space.”

Jerusalem, hosted the central and culminating event of salvation history — the Paschal Mystery of Christ. In Jerusalem, the purpose for which the Word took flesh was revealed and realized: in his death on the cross and in his resurrection “all was accomplished” (cf., John 19:30). On Calvary the Incarnation was made manifest as Redemption, according to the eternal plan of God.

The stones of Jerusalem bear silent and eloquent witness to this mystery. I began at the Upper Room, where I celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the same place that Jesus instituted it. There, where the Christian priesthood was born, I remembered all priests, and I signed my letter to them for this coming Holy Thursday.

The olives and rock of Gethsemani testify to the mystery where Christ, seized by mortal anguish, prayed to the Father before his Passion. In an entirely particular way, Calvary and the empty tomb, the Holy Sepulcher, bear witness to those dramatic hours.

Last Sunday, the Lord's Day, I renewed there the proclamation of salvation that crosses the centuries and millenniums: Christ is risen! This was the moment when my pilgrimage reached its culmination. That is why I felt the need to stop again in prayer in the evening on Calvary, where Christ shed his blood for humanity.

In Jerusalem, a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, I met the two chief rabbis of Israel and the grand mufti of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. I then met with representatives of these two other monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam. In spite of its many difficulties, Jerusalem is called to become the symbol of peace among those who believe in the God of Abraham and put themselves under his law. May we be able to hasten the accomplishment of this destiny!

At Yad Vashem, the Memorial of the Shoah, I paid my respects to the millions of Jews who were victims of Nazism. Once more I expressed my profound sorrow for this terrifying tragedy, and I confirmed that “we want to remember” to take the responsibility together — Jews, Christians, and all men and women of good will — to overcome evil with good, to walk the path of peace.

Today numerous churches live their faith in the Holy Land, as heirs of ancient traditions. This diversity is a great richness, provided that it is accompanied by a spirit of communion in full adherence to the faith of the Fathers. The ecumenical meeting, which took place in the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem with intense participation on the part of all signaled an important step on the path toward full unity among Christians. It gave me great joy to be able to talk with His Beatitude Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem and with His Beatitude Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Torkom Monoogian. I invite everyone to pray that the process of understanding and collaboration among Christians of various churches will solidify and develop.


Aspecial blessing of this pilgrimage was celebrating Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes near the Sea of Galilee with crowds of youth coming both from the Holy Land and from all over the world. What a hope-filled moment!

As I proclaimed and delivered to the young people God's Commandments and the Beatitudes, I saw in them the future of the Church and of the world.

Still on the shores of the Sea, I visited with great emotion Tabgha, where Christ multiplied the loaves, the “place of primacy,” where he entrusted to Peter the pastoral guidance of the Church, and finally, in Capernaum, the ruins of Peter's house and of the synagogue in which Jesus revealed himself as the Bread come down from Heaven to give life to the world (John 6:28-58).

The memory of Jerusalem is indelibly written on my heart. Great is the mystery of this city, in which the fullness of time was made, so to speak, “fullness of space.”

Galilee! Homeland of Mary and of the first disciples, homeland of the missionary Church among the peoples! I think that Peter always held it in his heart, and the same is true for his successor!

On the liturgical feast of the Annunciation, as if returning to the source of the mystery of faith, I went and knelt in the grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Here, in the womb of Mary, “the Word was made flesh and came to live among us” (John 1:14). Reflecting on the Virgin's fiat, it is possible to hear, in adoring silence, the “yes” full of love of God and men, the “amen” of the eternal Son, that opened to every man the way of salvation. There, in the reciprocal self-giving of Christ and Mary, are the hinges of every “holy door.” There, where God was made man, humanity found again its dignity and highest vocation.

Register Summary

The Holy Father recalled his thoughts and emotions at the major stops in a journey that was clearly a spiritual highpoint of his papacy.

The Pope also recounted his important meetings with Chris tians, Jews and Muslims in Jeru salem. Especially moving was his visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial.