From the speech of Pope Francis at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on the second and final day of his visit to the Holy Land. He reiterated messages of fraternity, mutual respect and tolerance
This evening (Monday), Pope Francis concluded his visit to Israel, following a day densely packed with meetings and events. The second day of the visit began with a meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who is in charge of Jerusalem's Islamic holy places. The Grand Mufti protested Israel's attempts to take control of the Temple Mount, to which the Pope responded, "May we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters!"
The Pope then continued to the Western Wall and met with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. After receiving explanations near a model of the Holy Temple, he touched the wall, closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. Pope Francis then read the note placed it in a crack between the stones. In the guest book , the Pope inscribed: "Invoke from God the gift of peace."
After placing a wreath on the grave of Zionist visionary Herzl and visiting a memorial for victims of terror, the Holy Father went to Yad Vashem. His words in the Hall of Remembrance rang of a poetic prayer and dealt with the question of where man was during the Holocaust and how man was capable of committing such a crime. In his speech, the Pope referred to the break in humanity, where mankind lost their humanity.
"Today, in this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: 'Adam, where are you?'" said the Pope. "Here before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, that cry - 'Where are you?' echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss. 'Adam, who are you? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths? The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you."
After a short ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Pope met with six Holocaust survivors and spoke with them. He not only shook their hands, but in an extraordinary gesture of humility, kissed their hands as well.
At his next stop, Heichal Shlomo, the Pope met with the Chief Rabbis of Israel. Rabbi David Lau said that just several meters from Heichal Shlomo, at Sbarro Pizza and Cafe Moment - dozens of people were murdered in terror attacks committed in the name of religion.
In his speech at Heichal Shlomo, the Pope said, "I have counted many Jews among my friends. Together we organized rewarding occasions of encounter and dialogue; with them I also experienced significant moments of sharing on a spiritual level. In the first months of my pontificate, I was able to receive various organizations and representatives from the Jewish community worldwide…They testify to our mutual desire to know one another better, to listen to each other and to build bonds of true fraternity… I am convinced that the progress which has been made in recent decades in the relationship between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift of God.”
At the President's Residence, the Pope's next stop, President Shimon Peres hosted the central reception in his honor. The two met to discuss political issues, conducted a prayer ceremony for the recovery of sick Christian children, planted an olive tree in the garden of the presidential residence, and gave special speeches in Hebrew and Italian that were broadcast live to believers around the world.
During their meeting, Pope Francis thanked the President for his warm words of welcome. "Blessed is he who enters the home of a good and wise man. And I feel blessed."
In their speeches and meetings, both the Pope and President Peres referred directly to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. President Peres commented on the Pope's invitation to visit Rome together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said, "Your invitation to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, for whom I have the deepest respect, is exceptionally important, and I accept it. Your visit to the Holy Land is an important opportunity for a joint prayer to God in Heaven for peace. We would be honored to offer such a prayer in our home or yours. In accordance with your kind offer. We will work together, Jews, Christians and Muslims to bring an end to the conflicts. Economic prosperity and social justice for all. I believe that peace is the key to bringing about these changes. Our home is open to all pilgrims."
The Pope stated that he had the deepest respect for President Peres as a man of peace and a peacemaker. Peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Hews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life. We must resolutely pursue peaceful solutions to every controversy and conflict. Let us pray that we never tire of pursuing peace consistently and with determination.
At the end of the ceremony at the Presidential Residence, the Pope received the Prime Minister for a meeting at the Notre Dame Center. "We have hundreds of churches here in the Land of Israel, in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Capernaum and Korazim," said Prime Minister Netanyau at the beginning of their meeting. "We maintain each one, not one stone has been moved. We maintain the rights of Christians in the State of Israel. We respect Your Holiness's approach to religious tolerance; Israel maintains this tolerance."
In the afternoon, the Pope met with believers inthe Church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem and conducted Mass in the room of the Cenacle. The Pope's visit to Israel and the Middle East came to a close with an official farewell ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, after which Pope Francis boarded his aircraft to travel back to the Vatican.