24-26 May 2014
Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land is a call to dialogue and encounter, a call to excel and transcend walls and borders, says Gregorios III.
On his return from Jordan, His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, hailed this pilgrimage of Pope Francis as the culmination of a fifty-year long journey punctuated by the annual feast-days of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew; Roman delegations in Constantinople for Saint Andrew’s day and Constantinopolitan delegations to the Vatican for Saint Peter’s, Joint Commissions for Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue …
This pilgrimage of the Holy Father is full of spiritual symbols, according to H.B. Gregorios III. It is enough merely to glance at the itinerary to realise that it constitutes an appeal to excel and transcend borders. Moving continually between one country and another, among Christians, Muslims and Jews, Pope Francis has once again launched an appeal for dialogue and encounter.
This was a call for more spirituality; a call to excel; shift boundaries; go beyond walls of partition, such as the wall around Bethlehem; a call to transcend borders… spiritual and material walls.
The Holy Father Francis came to tell us that “Christ is our peace.” He too came to bring peace, meaning that the Vatican is a “peace-maker”! It seems highly symbolic too that this pilgrimage of Pope Francis is his first trip outside Italy, since the World Youth Days in Brazil (23-28 July 2013).
Peace in the Holy Land, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the cessation of violence and the beginning of dialogue in Syria, were also central to Pope Francis’ appeals.
The Holy Father summons each of us to change his way of thinking and seeing and go beyond borders and walls in order to continue to be salt and leaven in these holy lands. This reminds us of the words of Pope Saint John Paul II stating that the Holy Land is the “homeland of the heart of all the spiritual descendants of Abraham … the sacred patrimony of all believers.”
On the eve of the Holy Father’s arrival, His Beatitude Gregorios III participated in the joint talk given by all the Eastern Patriarchs, and signed the joint request of the leaders of the Eastern Catholic Churches asking Pope Francis to fix a common date for the Feast of Pascha, to be selected by the Holy Father from the second fortnight of April.