In a speech in the West Bank at the foot of “the wall” Pope Benedict calls for what any reasonable person knows is the only solution. He repeats the call for co-existence of Palestine and Israel in peace. He calls for courage and bold action. Once again, B16 and the Holy See have shown the power and strength of Catholic social justice and Gospel values. This is the Church at its best. Throughout this trip B16 has managed to convey support, admiration for Israel and solidarity with the Palestinians and ongoing love for the Christians of the Holy Land. In his talks it’s quite clear that the Holy Father, through his multiple references to Francis of Assisi, has been influenced by the Franciscan Friars (OFM), or as we call them the “brownies”, who serve in many of the sacred sites. They do an amazing ministry and make us proud.
Here’s an example of the great work of B16:
Towering over us, as we gather here this afternoon, is a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Israelis and Palestinians seem to have reached – the wall. In a world where more and more borders are being opened up – to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges – it is tragic to see walls still being erected. How we long to see the fruits of the much more difficult task of building peace! How earnestly we pray for an end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built!
On both sides of the wall, great courage is needed if fear and mistrust is to be overcome, if the urge to retaliate for loss or injury is to be resisted. It takes magnanimity to seek reconciliation after years of fighting. Yet history has shown that peace can only come when the parties to a conflict are willing to move beyond their grievances and work together towards common goals, each taking seriously the concerns and fears of the other, striving to build an atmosphere of trust. There has to be a willingness to take bold and imaginative initiatives towards reconciliation: if each insists on prior concessions from the other, the result can only be stalemate.
Humanitarian aid, of the kind provided in this camp, has an essential role to play, but the long-term solution to a conflict such as this can only be political. No one expects the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to arrive at it on their own. The support of the international community is vital, and hence I make a renewed appeal to all concerned to bring their influence to bear in favor of a just and lasting solution, respecting the legitimate demands of all parties and recognizing their right to live in peace and dignity, in accordance with international law. Yet at the same time, diplomatic efforts can only succeed if Palestinians and Israelis themselves are willing to break free from the cycle of aggression. I am reminded of those other beautiful words attributed to Saint Francis: “where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon … where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy.”
To all of you I renew my plea for a profound commitment to cultivate peace and non-violence, following the example of Saint Francis and other great peacemakers. Peace has to begin in the home, in the family, in the heart. I continue to pray that all parties to the conflict in these lands will have the courage and imagination to pursue the challenging but indispensable path of reconciliation. May peace flourish once more in these lands! May God bless his people with peace!