The Israel Ministry of Tourism has announced a new website dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI’s first Papal visit to the Holy Land due to be launched on April 15th this year.
The user-friendly mini-site will be available in seven languages and feature background information, photographs and video footage related to Christian holy sites in Israel as well as detailed information on the Pope’s itinerary and trip highlights.
“The new website will help satisfy the influx of telephone and email inquiries from across Canada requesting information on the Pope’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” commented Oded Grofman, Consul for Tourism and Director, Israel Government Tourist Office - Canada. “Israel anticipates thousands of Canadian Catholics and other Christians across the world to follow in the Pope’s footsteps and travel to the Holy Land this spring.”
Benedict XVI's Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a mission of peace and reconciliation: “I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, while visiting the places sanctified by His earthly life, for the precious gift of unity and peace, for the Middle East and for all humanity.”
His Holiness defined his pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a visit to the birthplace of the Christian faith: “I am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there. Indeed, the Church draws its sustenance from the root of that good olive tree, the people of Israel, onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11: 17-24). From the earliest days of Christianity, our identity and every aspect of our life and worship have been intimately bound up with the ancient religion of our fathers in faith.”2
The Pontiff’s pilgrimage will take him to Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem.
Jerusalem is a sparkling jewel. At its outskirts are Bethlehem and the hallowed Church of the Nativity, Ein Karem, associated with Saint John the Baptist, and Bethany, home of Mary and Martha.
The holy places mentioned in the Gospels come to life in Jerusalem, and pilgrims can see and visit them all, for example, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Kidron Valley.
Jesus' final path - the Via Dolorosa – is commemorated in the enchanting Old City, as is the site of His Resurrection, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Inside the Old City walls stands the holy Western Wall of the Jewish Temple, yearning for the Heavens. The Old City also houses Muslim shrines, such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Nazareth, the Flower of the Galilee, is the site of The Basilica of Annunciation and its famous Grotto.
“And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Lk. 1: 30-31)*
Nazareth and the surrounding areas are overflowing with churches and archeological excavations related to the boyhood and ministry of Jesus Christ. Just outside Nazareth is Precipice Mountain, where a mob attempted to throw Jesus off the cliff:
“And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.” (Lk. 4:29) *
The Pontiff’s visit to Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) in Jerusalem is another expression of his solidarity with the Jewish people and his acknowledgement of the horrors of the Holocaust.
“As I affectionately renew the expression of my full and unquestionable solidarity with our fellow receivers of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah will lead humanity to reflect upon the unfathomable power of evil when it conquers the heart of man.”