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Pope Benedict XVI's eight-day visit to the Holy Land was a biblical pilgrimage, an interfaith mission and a political balancing act all rolled into one. It was also a gamble.
The pilgrimage concludes:
Flying back to Rome after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI offered an instant analysis of his eight-day trip.
Amid billowing Israeli and Vatican flags, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed his friendship with both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, acknowledging the Palestinians' right to an independent state as well as Israel's right to exist in "peace and security."
"Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war!" the pope said as he departed the Holy Land.
Standing before Christ's empty tomb, Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians in the Holy Land to bury their differences so they could preach hope and peace with one voice.
A day in Nazareth:
Nearing the end of his Holy Land pilgrimage, Pope Benedict XVI came to Nazareth, the city where Jesus grew up, and appealed for the strengthening of family bonds in the region and the world.
Peace in the Middle East, Catholic-Jewish relations and the difficulties of church workers in Israel were just a few of the topics discussed when Pope Benedict XVI met privately May 14 with newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Meeting with Catholic and other religious leaders in Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI returned to a running theme of his Holy Land pilgrimage: that God intervenes in human history, offering people a real reason for hope.
Celebrating Mass in Nazareth, the hometown of the Holy Family, Pope Benedict XVI urged the region's people to keep their family bonds strong and to extend that love and acceptance to others, whether Christian or Muslim.
Wednesday in the West Bank:
The pope spoke carefully during his Holy Land pilgrimage in May -- so carefully that it occasionally seemed his talks were written by Vatican diplomats. But the image and the message people will carry from his visit may have more to do with scarves than speeches.
The miles of concrete slicing through the countryside and through people's yards, gardens and fields were impossible to miss. And for a person born in Germany, a country divided by a wall for decades, it was impossible to ignore.
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the Palestinian territories May 13 and immediately declared the Vatican's support for an independent Palestine.
Pope Benedict XVI knelt in prayer at the spot where tradition holds Jesus was born, then went to a Catholic children's hospital, where he held an infant boy named Elias in his arms.
Israel issued fewer than half the travel permits the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem had requested for Christians from the Gaza Strip to attend Pope Benedict XVI's Mass May 13 in Bethlehem.
The pope's "pilgrimage of peace" was clearly not immune from the real-world divisions among Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Day two in Israel:
Standing below the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem, and in the shadow of the walls of the city where he rose from the dead, Pope Benedict XVI urged the region's Christians to stay in the Holy Land and work for harmony among its people.
Taking a piece of paper, firmly folding it in four and pushing it deep into a crevice of Jerusalem's Western Wall, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace in the Holy Land and respect among believers from every faith.
In a visit to one of Islam's holiest places, Pope Benedict XVI said Christians, Muslims and Jews have a "grave responsibility" to expand dialogue and mend divisions.
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the "little flock" of Christians in the Holy Land to persevere as a vital presence in society and a witness to unity in the troubled region.
Passing the midpoint of his Holy Land pilgrimage, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an open-air Mass in Jerusalem, prayed at the Western Wall and visited one of Islam's most sacred shrines.
The Holocaust memorial:
On his first day in Jerusalem, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and said the suffering of Jews under the Nazi extermination campaign must "never be denied, belittled or forgotten."
Edward Mosberg cannot forget certain images: A Nazi soldier ripping a baby from his mother's arms and smashing the baby's head against a wall; another soldier shooting through a rucksack to kill a hidden child.
"Only someone who has lived (through the Holocaust years) can understand what it was like," says Ivan Vranetic. "Today, still, 70 percent of people hate the other because they're from a different religion or different group."
Also on first day in Israel:
The pope was able to read the entire text of the speech prepared for his meeting May 11 with organizations involved in interreligious dialogue, but several Jewish leaders walked out later when a Muslim cleric, who was not scheduled to speak, took the microphone.
Reaching Israel, the country at the heart of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI condemned anti-Semitism and prayed for a new era in which all believers in the one God would live in peace and treat each other with respect and justice.
A Palestinian press office in East Jerusalem opened to serve journalists during the papal visit was closed by Israeli police in the early hours of May 11.
Sunday in Amman:
Walking a pilgrim's path in Jordan, Pope Benedict XVI energized its minority Christian population and built bridges to the moderate Muslim world.
Pope Benedict XVI's only public Mass in Jordan was a liturgy like that found in many parishes in May: It was first Communion Sunday.
Several times during events May 8-10, the pope praised Jordan's generosity in welcoming an estimated 700,000 Iraqi refugees over the last several years of war and civil strife in the neighboring country.
On pilgrimage, day two:
Acknowledging that much of the history of Christian-Muslim relations has been marked by misunderstanding and tension, the pope said it is faith that calls members of both communities to respect each other and join together to promote the common good.
At his first liturgy in Jordan, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the country's Catholic minority to make its voice heard in public life and to join forces with Muslims when moral concerns cross religious boundaries.
Pope Benedict XVI walked a pilgrim's path at one of the Holy Land's most ancient sites, then launched a project for the church's future in the region.
In the crowds that welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to Jordan and followed him to Catholic schools and churches were several dozen people who have taken an oath to pray for and financially support the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
The trip begins:
The pope was making his first trip to an Arab country, the first leg of a journey that was later to take him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Pope Benedict XVI's first stop in Jordan was at a church-run facility for people with disabilities, a place he said demonstrates how suffering can change people for the better.
Eid Gabriel, a 44-year-old Coptic Catholic from Alexandria, Egypt, traveled nearly 15 hours by bus with a group of nuns and priests. "I asked to come with them, because I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to see him again," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Jordan on the first leg of a Holy Land pilgrimage and praised the country's efforts to oppose conflict and violence between the West and the Islamic world.
When Pope Benedict XVI greeted Jordanian King Abdullah II and Queen Rania May 8, he was meeting descendants of the prophet Mohammed.
En route to Jordan, Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped his Holy Land pilgrimage would aid the Middle East peace process by highlighting the value of prayer and convincing people to leave behind factional interests.
As Pope Benedict XVI prepared to visit Israel, Jewish leaders involved in dialogue appeared to be hopeful and not particularly wary about what the pope would say. On the other hand, many members of the Jewish community and Catholics sensitive to their feelings appeared to be holding their breath.
Israeli and Vatican officials denied reports that Israeli President Shimon Peres had asked the government to relinquish sovereignty over several holy places as a gesture of good will for Pope Benedict XVI.
Using the media present at his weekly general audience to address the people of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Pope Benedict XVI said that he hoped to promote peace and unity during his eight-day visit to the region.
Middle East Christians hoping to see Pope Benedict XVI during his May 8-15 pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories faced some travel restrictions.
Preparing to visit the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI asked for prayers for his trip, for peace in the region and for the suffering Palestinian people.
The Vatican and Israel have reported significant progress in negotiations on an economic agreement on church fiscal and property issues, but sources ruled out the possibility that an agreement could be reached before Pope Benedict XVI makes his Holy Land pilgrimage.
Preparations in Jordan ...
"He's coming after Sept. 11, after the American invasion of Iraq -- so many things have changed in the area (Middle East)," said Farouq Jarar, acting director of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman. "Understanding among Muslims and Christians is much more important now than at any time before."
Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the Middle East can serve as an opportunity to build hope among Arabs while broadening interreligious understanding, said Jordan's Prince El Hassan bin Talal.
... and in the West Bank
When Pope Benedict XVI comes to the Aida Refugee Camp May 13, Um Omar will climb to the balcony on the top floor of her building and wave both her hands in a victory sign in his direction.
A look at the church in Israel
Agnes and Kamil Shahade's five children grew up in the House of Grace with newly paroled prisoners helping to take care of them and a never-ending series of people in difficulty knocking on the door. Now, one of them handles public relations and is the chief cook.
At the back of a stone house, in a small chapel decorated with green plants, icons and Easter lilies, two dozen members of Haifa's Hebrew-speaking Catholic community gathered for Mass.
The creamy stones of the Sacred Heart Home gleam in the sun, and squeals of delight echo in the corridors when Sister Pascale Jarjour enters a room.
While the Melkite faithful -- members of a Byzantine-rite church -- are likely to form a significant portion of the faithful at the papal Mass in Nazareth May 14, the Mass is unlikely to have any significant Byzantine flavor, said Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa.
Daniel Rossing uses one word to sum up the extent of teaching about Christianity in Israeli public schools: none.
With just over three weeks to go before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to celebrate Mass in a new municipal amphitheater in Nazareth, bulldozers were working around the clock.
Previewing the trip:
In many ways, the May 8-15 visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories is the most challenging of the pope's foreign visits to date, one that will test his skills of communication and bridge-building in a region of conflict and mistrust.
On his first trip to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, stop at the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and visit a refugee camp in Bethlehem.
U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, grand master of the order, said the knights and dames had given about $325,000 to Pope Benedict and the same amount to Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem to help cover the expenses of the visit.
The pope's May 8-15 trip, which includes five days in Jerusalem, will demonstrate the Vatican's respect for the state of Israel as part of Jewish identity, said Rabbi David Rosen.
Less than three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian territories, many issues remained unresolved.