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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"An army of Christians filled the hillside"
 real 28k

Pope John Paul II speaks to worshippers:
"To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in today's world"
 real 28k

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
"A major step towards reconciliation"
 real 28k

The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"Only the second Pope in history to have been here"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 March, 2000, 17:53 GMT
Pope in the footsteps of Jesus

Mass on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
Pope John Paul II has celebrated mass in Galilee near the site where Jesus Christ is said to have preached the Sermon on the Mount.

In the largest Christian festival ever seen in Israel, the Pope beseeched the young, for whom the service was especially intended, to follow Jesus's message of peace.



The popemobile in the shadow of the Mount of Beatitudes
Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese flags were among those from many nations which fluttered over the 100,000 strong crowd which had braved stormy weather to attend the historic event.

Five thousand Christians from the Palestinian territories had been given permits to travel into Israel to witness what is the pastoral highlight of the tour.

The Pope is fulfilling a long-held ambition to perform a pilgrimage to the Holy Land on the 2,000th anniversary of the traditional date of Jesus's birth and his two days in Galilee take him to the heartland of Jesus's life and teaching.

"How many generations before us have been deeply moved by the Sermon on the Mount," the Pope told the congregation in his homily.



The colours of Israel, the Vatican, Lebanon and Palestine
"How many young hearts have been inspired by the power of his personality and the compelling truth of his message. It is wonderful that you are here."

Jesus's Sermon on the Mount is one of the best known Gospel texts, describing the poor, meek, merciful, pure in heart and the peacemakers as being blessed by God.

Three hundred white-robed Church leaders from all denominations joined the Pope on a stage covered with red and green carpets under a huge black awning.

Land of miracles

During the day the Pope will visit the Biblical sites where followers believe Jesus fed the 5,000 with loaves and fishes, and walked on water.

The emphasis on the pastoral and spiritual aspects of the Pope's pilgrimage on the shores of the Sea of Galilee is a marked change from the political intensity of earlier days.

Click here for sacred sites on the Papal tour

During his visit to Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Thursday, the Pope grieved for the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis.



Pilgrims often find Galilee most evocative of Bible stories
Israel welcomed the speech as "a milestone" in efforts to reconcile the two religions.

The day before he had told Palestinians they had the right to a homeland and visited a squalid refugee camp in Bethlehem where he made a powerful statement condemning their treatment.

On Saturday he will visit the northern Israeli town of Nazareth where Christian-Muslim tensions have erupted among its Arab population over the decision by the government to allow a mosque to be built on disputed land next to the Church of the Annunciation.

The last stage of his trip takes him to the old city of Jerusalem, which is occupied by Israel but is claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state.




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See also:

24 Mar 00 | Middle East
The Pope's personal pilgrimage
24 Mar 00 | Middle East
In pictures: The Pope in Galilee
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Vatican's Mid-East balancing act
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Pope's message scrutinised
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Arab press celebrate Pope's support
23 Mar 00 | Middle East
Israel hails Pope's Holocaust grief
22 Mar 00 | Middle East
Pope's plea for Palestinian refugees
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