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Holy Land visit could foster deeper Christian unity, says Pope

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Pope Francis said in his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square today that his voyage to the Holy Land, from which he returned on Monday, may have greatly aided the cause of the unity of Christians, which is very close to the Pope's heart. “I give thanks to God. He led me to that blessed Land, that has seen the historical presence of Jesus and where events fundamental to Judaism, Christianity and Islam took place,” the Holy Father reflected. Speaking of his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew he said “we all felt the bitterness and suffering of the divisions that continue to exist between Christ's disciples, and this has really done great harm, harm to the heart.”

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“We are still divided; in that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, where Jesus gives us life, we are still divided,” said the Pontiff. “But above all, in that celebration so rich in mutual brotherhood, esteem and affection, we strongly heard the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to bring together all His sheep in one flock; we felt the desire to heal the wounds that are still open and to follow with tenacity the path to full communion. Once more, like my predecessors, I ask forgiveness for what we have done to promote that division, and I pray that the Holy Spirit may help us to heal the wounds we have inflicted on other brethren," Francis pointedly said.

The Holy Father said that natives of the Holy Land, of whatever faith, had suffered violence "for too long," and like his predecessors Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, he has also expressed deep concern for the ever-dwindling number of native Christians in the land where Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again.