POPE VOICES "GREAT JOY, DEEP EMOTION" ON VISIT TO MOUNT
VATICAN CITY, FEB 26, 2000 (VIS) - This morning Pope John
travelled by plane to St. Catherine's Monastery on the
Peninsula, the focal point of the first of his Jubilee
pilgrimages, which are dedicated to those places linked
history of salvation. He left Cairo International Airport
in a C-130
Hercules at 8:40 a.m., local time, travelling the 250
just over one hour.
The Holy Father then travelled by car to St. Catherine's
where he was welcomed by its abbot, Greek Orthodox Archbishop
Damianos. The archbishop gave several gifts to the Pope,
ring which he placed on his right hand.
The Pope, his entourage and the 23 monks of the monastery
then paid a
private visit to the multi-level church, in particular
to the relics
of St. Catherine and, behind the main altar, the roots
of the "burning
bush" where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.
This visit was followed by the Liturgy of the Word which
took place in
the Garden of Olives outside the walls of the monastery
at the foot of
Mount Horeb, also known as the Mount of the Ten Commandments.
Liturgy was in Arabic, French and English.
In his homily, given in English, John Paul II said that
great joy and deep emotion, the Bishop of Rome is a pilgrim
Sinai, drawn by this holy mountain which rises like a
to what God revealed here. Here He revealed His name!
Here He gave His
Law, the Ten Commandments of the Covenant!"
"Here on Mount Sinai, the truth of 'who God is' became
and guarantee of the Covenant. Moses ... is given the
'written with the finger of God'. But what is this Law?
It is the Law
of life and freedom! ... If the people obey (God's) Law,
know freedom forever."
"The encounter of God and Moses on this mountain enshrines
heart of our religion the mystery of liberating obedience,"
Paul affirmed. "The Ten Commandments are not an arbitrary
of a tyrannical Lord. They were written in stone; but
they were written on the human heart as the universal
moral law, valid
in every time and place. Today, as always, the Ten Words
of the Law
provide the only true basis for the lives of individuals,
and nations. Today, as always, they are the only future
of the human
family. They save man from the destructive force of egoism,
falsehood. They point out all the false gods that draw
slavery; the love of self to the exclusion of God, the
greed for power
and pleasure that overturns the order of justice and degrades
human dignity and that of our neighbor."
The Holy Father affirmed that "to keep the Commandments
is to be
faithful to God, but it is also to be faithful to ourselves,
true nature and our deepest aspirations."
"The Ten Commandments are the law of freedom; not the
follow our blind passions, but the freedom to love, to
choose what is
good in every situation."
"In pursuit of this truth, the monks of this monastery
tents in the Sinai," said Pope John Paul II in closing
"Through the centuries, this monastery has been an exceptional
place for people belonging to different Churches, traditions
cultures. I pray that in the new millennium the monastery
Catherine will be a radiant beacon calling to the Churches
to know one
another better and to rediscover the importance in the
eyes of God of
the things that unite us in Christ."
At the end of his visit to St. Catherine's Monastery,
the Holy Father
returned to Cairo and the apostolic nunciature, where
he and his
entourage had lunch.
He is scheduled to leave the Egyptian capital at 6:15
local time for
the three and a half hour flight to Rome. President Hosni
Egypt will be at the airport to bid the Pope farewell,
as will other
civil and religious authorities.
PV-MOUNT SINAI/ST CATHERINE/MO