Pope John Paul II

On Jerusalem and the Middle East (Apostolic Letter Redemptionis Anno)

Vatican City

1. Revered Brothers and Beloved Sons:

Health and Apostolic Blessing.

As the Jubilee Year of Redemption draws to a close, my thoughts go to that special land which is located in that place where Europe, Asia, and Africa meet and in which the Redemption of the human race was accomplished "once and for all" [Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27, 9:12, 10:10].

It is a land which we call holy, indeed the land which was the earthly homeland of Christ who walked about it "preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity" [Matt. 4:23]

This year especially I was pleased to be touched by the same sentiment and the same joy as my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, when he visited the Holy Land and Jerusalem in 1964.

Although I cannot be there physically, I nevertheless feel that I am spiritually a pilgrim in that land where our reconciliation with God was brought about, to beg the Prince of Peace for the gift of redemption and of peace which is so earnestly desired by the hearts of people, families, and nations—in a special way by the nations which inhabit this very area.

I think especially of the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus, offering his life, "has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility... bringing the hostility to an end" [Eph. 2:14,16].

Before it was the city of Jesus the Redeemer, Jerusalem was the historic site of the biblical revelation of God, the meeting place, as it were, of heaven and earth, in which more than in any other place the word of God was brought to men.

Christians honor her with a religious and intent concern because there the words of Christ so often resounded, there the great events of the Redemption were accomplished: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord. In the city of Jerusalem the first Christian community sprang up and remained throughout the centuries a continual ecclesial presence despite difficulties.

Jews ardently love her and in every age venerate her memory, abundant as she is in many remains and monuments from the time of David who chose her as the capital, and of Solomon who built the Temple there. Therefore, they turn their minds to her daily, one may say, and point to her as the sign of their nation.

Muslims also call Jerusalem "holy," with a profound attachment that goes back to the origins of Islam and springs from the fact that they have there many special places of pilgrimage and for more than a thousand years have dwelt there, almost without interruption.

Besides these exceptional and outstanding testimonies, Jerusalem contains communities of believers full of life, whose presence the peoples of the whole world regard as a sign and source of hope—especially those who consider the Holy City to be in a certain way their spiritual heritage and a symbol of peace and harmony.

Indeed, insofar as she is the homeland of the hearts of all the spiritual descendants of Abraham who hold her very dear, and the place where, according to faith, the created things of earth encounter the infinite transcendence of God, Jerusalem stands out as a symbol of coming together, of union, and of universal peace for the human family.

The Holy City, therefore, strongly urges peace for the whole human race, especially for those who worship the one, great God, the merciful Father of the peoples. But it must be acknowledged that Jerusalem continues to be the cause of daily conflict, violence, and partisan reprisals.

This situation and these considerations cause these words of the Prophet to spring to the lips: "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch" [Isa. 62:1].

I think of and long for the day on which we shall all be so "taught by God" [John 6:45] that we shall listen to his message of peace and reconciliation. I think of the day on which Jews, Christians, and Muslims will greet each other in the city of Jerusalem with the same greeting of peace with which Christ greeted the disciples after the resurrection: “Peace be with you" [John 20:19].

The Roman pontiffs, especially in this century, have witnessed with an ever-anxious solicitude the violent events which have afflicted Jerusalem for many decades, and they have followed closely with watchful care the declarations of the United Nations which have dealt with the fate of the Holy City.

2. On many occasions the Holy See has called for reflection and urged that an adequate solution be found to this difficult and complex situation. The Holy See has done this because she is concerned for peace among peoples no less than for spiritual, historical, and cultural reasons of a nature eminently religious.

The entire human race, and especially the peoples and nations who have in Jerusalem brothers in faith—Christians, Jews and Muslims—have reason to feel themselves involved in this matter and to do everything possible to preserve the unique and sacred character of the city. Not only the monuments or the sacred places, but the whole historical Jerusalem and the existence of religious communities, their situation and future cannot but affect everyone and interest everyone.

Indeed, there should be found, with goodwill and farsightedness, a concrete and just solution by which different interests and aspirations can be provided for in a harmonious and stable form, and be safe-guarded in an adequate and efficacious manner by a special statute internationally guaranteed so that no party could jeopardize it.

I also feel it an urgent duty, in the presence of the Christian communities, of those who believe in the One God and who are committed to the defense of fundamental human values, to repeat that the question of Jerusalem is fundamental for a just peace in the Middle East. It is my conviction that the religious identity of the city and particularly the common tradition of monotheistic faith can pave the way to promote harmony among all those who in different ways consider the Holy City as their own.

I am convinced that the failure to find an adequate solution to the question of Jerusalem, and the resigned postponement of the problem, only compromise further the longed-for peaceful and just settlement of the crisis of the whole Middle East.

It is natural in this context to recall that in the area two peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, have been opposed to each other for decades in an antagonism that appears insoluble.

The Church, which looks at Christ the Redeemer and sees his image in the face of every man, invokes peace and reconciliation for the people of the land that was his.

For the Jewish people who live in the State of Israel and who preserve in that land such precious testimonies to their history and their faith, we must ask for the desired security and the due tranquility that is the prerogative of every nation and condition of life and of progress for every society.

The Palestinian people, who find their historical roots in that land and who, for decades, have been dispersed, have the natural right in justice to find once more a homeland and to be able to live in peace and tranquility with the other peoples of the area.

All the peoples of the Middle East, each with its own heritage of spiritual values, will not be able to overcome the tragic events in which they are involved—I am thinking of Lebanon so sorely tried—unless they discover again the true sense of their history which through faith in the One God, calls them to live together peacefully in mutual cooperation.

I desire, therefore, to draw the attention of politicians, of all those who are responsible for the destiny of peoples, of those who are in charge of international organizations, to the plight of the city of Jerusalem and of the communities who live there. In fact, it escapes no one that the different expressions of faith and of culture present in the Holy City can and should be an effective aid to concord and peace.

On this Good Friday, when we solemnly recall the Passion and Death of the Savior, we invite you all, revered brothers in the Episcopate and all priests, men and women religious, and the faithful of the whole world, to include among the special intentions of your prayers the petition for a just solution to the problem of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and for the return of peace to the Middle East.

As this Jubilee Year of Redemption draws to a close, a year which we have celebrated with great spiritual joy whether in Rome or in all dioceses of the universal Church, Jerusalem has been the ideal goal, the natural place to which we direct our thoughts of love and thankfulness for the great gift of the Redemption which the Son of Man accomplished for all people in the Holy City.

And since the fruit of the Redemption is the reconciliation of man with God and of every man with his brothers, we ought to pray that also in Jerusalem, in the Holy Land of Jesus, those who believe in God may find reconciliation and peace after such sorrowful divisions and strife.

This peace proclaimed by Jesus Christ in the name of the Father who is in heaven thus makes Jerusalem the living sign of the great ideal of unity, of brotherhood, and of agreement among peoples according to the illuminating words of the Book of Isaiah: "Many peoples shall come and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths'" [Isa. 2:3].

Finally, we gladly impart our apostolic blessing.

Given in Rome at St. Peter's on Good Friday, 20 April 1984, the sixth year of our pontificate.