Pope Francis has written an afterword of a book by French writer Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt entitled “The challenge of Jerusalem – A journey to the Holy Land,” published by the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, and Edizioni E/O.
The Pope’s afterword was released in advance by the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
The Holy Father began his letter telling Mr. Schmitt that reading his book brought to mind his 2014 pilgrimage to the Holy Land to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic encounter between Pope St. Paul VI and then-Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide at the time.
He recalled that this event marked “a new stage” in the “journey of rapprochement between Christians, for centuries divided and separated, but which precisely, in the land of Jesus, received a new direction.”
Pope Francis conveyed that the places visited and described, “with poetic intensity,” in the work, especially Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane, “have come back to me powerfully.”
With nostalgia, the Pope also expressed his emotion to think back to “where it all began,” as the author remembers the sites where Jesus’ early life began and developed.
The Pope acknowledged that other aspects of the work “challenged” him, and, examining the title given to the travelogue, “The Challenge of Jerusalem,” argued that we all face a challenge “of human fraternity.”
He recalled Jerusalem’s great significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, noting that it was “no coincidence” that on his Apostolic Journey in 2014, he wished to be accompanied by Argentinian friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, and Argentinian Muslim representative, Omar Abboud.
“I wanted to manifest, also visually, that believers are called to be brothers and bridge-builders, and no longer enemies or war-makers,” he said. “Our vocation is fraternity, because we are children of the same God.”
“Our vocation is fraternity, because we are children of the same God”
“The challenge that Jerusalem still poses to the world today,” the Pope continued, is precisely this, “to awaken in the heart of every human being the desire to look upon the other as a brother in the one human family.”
Only with this “consciousness” and “awareness,” Pope Francis wrote in his afterword, “will we be able to build a possible future, silencing the weapons of destruction and hatred, and spreading throughout the world, the sweet scent of peace that God tirelessly gives us.”