Pope Benedict XVI's historic 2009 visit to Jerusalem and the Holy Land culminated in a mass at the Kidron Valley, adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane, where some 5000 pilgrims gathered. The Popemobile made its first 2009 Israel appearance at this event, where an enormous temporary stage stood amid old olive trees, beneath the Old City walls.
The mass took place on what is, according to his Holy Land 2009 itinerary, Pope Benedict XVI's busiest day of building bridges between faiths in Jerusalem - although tomorrow's trip to the Galilee and to areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority represents a major milestone as well.
Today began with the first-ever papal visit to the Temple Mount, where the Pope met with the Grand Mufti. Then he delivered a speech with his back to the crowds, facing the Western Wall, out of respect for this holy place, where he also slipped a prayer between the ancient rocks. The Pope then met with Israel's Chief Rabbis at the Heichal Shlomo Synagogue, after which he visited the Coenaculum, or Upper Room, the site of the Last Super on Mount Zion.
Later, at the Kidron Valley mass, the Pope spoke of Jerusalem's role in the world, praying that "There should be no place within these walls for narrowness, discrimination, violence and injustice," and explaining that even in the contemporary, vibrant Israeli city, "This is the hope, this the vision, which inspires all who love this earthly Jerusalem...."
"Gathered beneath the walls of this city, sacred to the followers of three great religions," he continued, "how can we not turn our thoughts to Jerusalem’s universal vocation?"
Addressing the throngs of potential future pilgrims, the Pope proclaimed, "Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone!" The crowd roared.
Photos of this historic event appear below.