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On the second day of his visit to Israel (Tuesday, 12th May), Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Holy Mass in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley. Several thousand faithful, including Catholics from the Holy Land and pilgrims and tourists from around the world, attended this historic event.

Gethsemane, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives beneath the city’s 400- year-old walls, is the place where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion.

Speaking from a huge stage specially erected for the Holy Mass, the Pontiff pursued his theme of seeking peace in the Holy Land: “Jerusalem… has always been a city whose streets echo with different languages; whose stones are trod by people of every race and tongue; whose walls are a symbol of God’s provident care. As a microcosm of our globalized world, this city… must be a place where prejudice, ignorance and the fear that fuels them are overcome by honesty, integrity and the pursuit of peace.”

In his address, Pope Benedict urged the local Christian community, which has dwindled over recent years due to relatively high emigration and low birth rates, to strengthen its presence in the Holy Land: “I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions. There is room for everyone in the Holy Land!"

At the conclusion of the solemn and moving ceremony, the atmosphere changed as the crowd burst into applause, waving flags and chanting, “Benedetto, Benedetto,” to the apparent delight of the Pontiff, who smiled graciously as he left the stage.