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First Anniversary of the Enthronement
of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI
Homily of Patriarch

Notre-Dame, Jerusalem - Wd 19.4.2006

Your Excellency Mons. Franco Antonio
Apostolic Delegate for Palestine and Nuntio for Israel and Cyprus
Brother Bishops and Priests
Brothers and Sisters

The peace and the joy of the Risen Lord be with you all.
We meet this afternoon to pray on the occasion of the first anniversary of the enthronement of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. It is at the same time the first anniversary after the death of Pope John Paul II. Two figures intimately linked in the service of the Church, every one having his own charisma in implementing his ministry.

John Paul II, was God’s pilgrim bringing the Risen Lord’s good news everywhere and to all. For us, in the Holy Land, the memory of his pilgrimage will remain alive: his encounter with all the realities of our land, his reaching the heart of all, and his feeling with the sufferings of both, Israelis and Palestinians. As we accompanied him during His pilgrimage, we saw, every one saw that his pilgrimage, through the crowds, and through the tight security measures, was a contemplation of the mystery of God in the land of the Redemption, and it is within this inner and deep contemplation during his pilgrimage that he reached all in these land, all peoples, all religions, and all the Churches of Jerusalem. His pilgrimage will remain a deep seed of faith, reconciliation and peace for all of us.

Pope Benedict XVI succeeded him. In an interview published in Zenit, on the day of Easter, assessing the first year of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the report says: “The difference that most impresses us is Benedict XVI's attempt to make the light of Christ shine, not the Pope's light, as he said the day after his election, in his message delivered before imparting the blessing "urbi et orbi" [to the city of Rome and the world], read in the Sistine Chapel”. It says that the essential lines of Benedict XVI's pontificate will be “the proclamation of the Christian faith as an event of salvation and not as a series of dogmas, moral norms, prohibitions and rites. The outstanding item is joy, of which the new Pope speaks continually. For Pope Benedict XVI, ”Christianity is an encounter with beauty, it is the possibility of a more authentic, more beautiful, more exciting life. A Christian doesn't reject anything of what is really human; he does not have to give something up, but he is invited to find a fuller life”.

In the same line, the first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est", is “an exceptional beginning. Many have wished to "recruit" Benedict XVI, to make him a symbol of political projects oriented to reaffirming Europe's identity, erecting walls against Islam, or were expecting a programmatic encyclical against relativism or in favor of Christian identity. On the contrary, the Pope surprised everyone by speaking of the love of God. And love and mercy are the other side of the word joy.

Benedict XVI, did not publish this year the "Letter to Priests on the Occasion of Holy Thursday". But in his homily on that same day, again he insisted on God’s love: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1). God loves his creature, man. He also loves him in his fall and does not abandon him to his fate. He loves to the end. With his love he goes to the end, to the extreme: He descends from his divine glory. He strips himself of his divine glory and takes the clothing of a slave. He descends to the lowest of our fall and helps us to be worthy to sit at his table…”.

With this vision of God’s love and the vocation of man called to find a permanent joy in his life, Pope Bendict XVI addressed his Easter message, after celebrating Easter Mass, to "this modern age marked by anxiety and uncertainty: “Christ is risen.  Let the people of the third millennium not be afraid to open their hearts to him….His Gospel totally quenches the thirst for peace and happiness that is found in every human heart. Christ is now alive and he walks with us. What an immense mystery of love!  Christ is risen because God is love,"

Then he highlighted in his message the hope that the resurrection of Jesus offers to troubled spots in the world: South America, the international crises linked to nuclear power, the Sudanese region of Darfur, the Great Lakes region, where many wounds have yet to be healed; the peoples of the Horn of Africa, of Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations which aspire to reconciliation, justice and progress."

Referring to the Middle East, he spoke about Iraq and about our Holy Land: "May peace finally prevail over the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim victims… I also pray sincerely that those caught up in the conflict in the Holy Land may find peace, and I invite all to patient and persevering dialogue, so as to remove both ancient and new obstacles. May the international community, which reaffirms Israel's just right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to build their future, moving toward the constitution of a state that is truly their own."

With the joy of the Resurrection we celebrate today in our Eucharist the two memories, Pope John Paul II going back to the Father, and the enthronement of Pope Benedict XVI. We pray. We thank god for all his blessings upon the Church through his two faithful servants, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We have listened to the Gospel of the two disciples of Emmaüs, to their resurrected hope after having met with the Risen Lord. With us also the Lord keeps walking. We implore him to relieve the pains of all those who suffer in all the world, especially in our Holy Land. May all the roads of violence be blocked for ever, and new ones of true love, trust, justice and reconciliation be found and kept opened. Amen.

 

+ Michael Sabbah, Patriarch

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