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Papal Pilgrimage to Holy Sepulchre

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Jerusalem, Israel - 15 May 2009 - On the final day of his five-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection. 

A traditional escort of men in black robes and red fezzes, rhythmically banging staffs on the ground to announce his approach, accompanied the Pontiff as he entered the Church. The Pope knelt down and kissed the rectangular stone on which Jesus' body is believed to have been placed after the crucifixion - a gesture that millions of pilgrims make when they visit the Church, one of the most visited Christian sites in Israel.
Pope Benedict at Church of the Holy Sepulchre
When Pope Benedict entered the structure inside the church marking the site of Jesus' tomb, he knelt inside alone for several minutes, hands clasped, as priests chanted nearby.

In his address at the church, the Pope urged those gathered in the church not to lose hope: "The Gospel reassures us that God can make all things new, that history need not be repeated, that memories can be healed, that the bitter fruits of recrimination and hostility can be overcome... With those words of encouragement, I conclude my pilgrimage to the holy places of our redemption and rebirth in Christ."

At the state ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport marking the end of his visit, the Pontiff spoke of "some of the powerful impressions that my pilgrimage to the Holy Land has left me", expressed his sorrow at the brutal extermination of Jews in the Holocaust and called for the realization of the two-state solution.

Pope Benedict Farewell Ceremony

In his speech, President Shimon Peres thanked the pope for his visit to the Holy Land, and called his "journey to the Holy Land... a heartfelt example of the exercise of spiritual values and ...a significant contribution to the new relations between the Vatican and Jerusalem."
After the ceremony, the Pope boarded a special El Al flight back to Rome, together with the members of his delegation.

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