JERUSALEM — Pope Benedict XVI vowed to fight anti-Semitism, invoked the memory of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust and called for an independent Palestinian state upon his arrival in Israel.
Pope Benedict XVI. More photos below and in Israel section [Israel Sun photos]
The pope also said he would pray for peace during his five-day visit to
Israel which began Monday morning when he landed in a plane belonging
to the Jordanian royal family at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
"I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace – peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world," Benedict said during a welcome ceremony at the airport.
The pope said he would "have the opportunity to honor the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude" during his scheduled visit to the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, and lamented the world-wide rise in anti-Semitism.
"Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable," Benedict said. "Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe."
Israeli President Shimon Peres greeted the Pope in both Latin and Hebrew before addressing the pontiff in English. "Your visit here brings a blessed understanding between religions and spreads peace near and far. Historic Israel and the renewed Israel together welcome your arrival as paving the great road to peace from city to city," Peres said.
Following the airport ceremony, the pope flew by helicopter to Jerusalem where he was greeted by Mayor Nir Barkat and a group of children waving Israeli flags and singing "Haveinu Shalom Aleichem."
Benedict is set to visit Yad Vashem on Monday afternoon, where he is scheduled to meet with Holocaust survivors. He will then attend a welcome reception at the president’s official residence in Jerusalem.
The pope, who is traveling with a 40-person staff and 70 reporters, will stay at the Papal Nuncio’s residence in Jerusalem during his visit. He is scheduled to visit the Temple Mount and the Western Wall on Tuesday, Bethlehem on Wednesday and Nazareth on Thursday. He will fly back to Rome Friday afternoon on a special El Al flight.
Upon the pope’s arrival, "Operation White Robe," which will include 80,000 police officers and security guards, went into effect to protect the Pope’s safety.