40,000 join pope at Nazareth mass

Pontiff urges city's Christians and Muslims to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence.

pope for image slot 248 (photo credit: )
pope for image slot 248
(photo credit: )
An estimated 40,000 people greeted Pope Benedict XVI on Mount Precipice in Nazareth before he presided over a mass on Thursday morning. Many of those who gathered in the city, where tradition holds that Jesus grew up, swayed back and forth to Arabic music played over loudspeakers, clapping in unison and waving yellow and white Vatican flags. A yellow and white banner hanging over a stone wall read "Pope, Don't Forget." As the music subsided, the crowd began the familiar chants in Italian of "Benedetto" and "Viva il Papa." In his address, the pope called on the city's Christians and Muslims to bridge the gaps between their communities. "Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between its Christian and Muslim communities," he said. "I urge people of good will in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence." "Let everyone reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice, which kills men's souls before it kills their bodies," implored the pontiff. The pope arrived on Mount Precipice, where Christian tradition says a mob tried to throw Jesus off a cliff, in his white popemobile and spoke from a specially constructed amphitheater - the biggest in Israel. Earlier, the archbishop of Galilee for the Greek Melkite Church, Elias Chacour, welcomed the pope with a plea for his prayers and "moral and spiritual support" to stem the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. He said the flight of Christians "fills me with pain" and that the future is not encouraging. After the Mount Precipice mass, the pope headed to the Basilica of the Annunciation to worship and for talks with local religious leaders.