|Vatican||POPE SAYS HOLY LAND TRIP 'UNFORGETTABLE'|
Pope John Paul said on Wednesday he was unable to express the joy he felt in his heart for his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land last week, describing it as an `unforgettable experience.'
Looking remarkably fit after a grueling seven-day schedule in Jordan, Israel and Palestinian territories, the Pope told thousands of pilgrims crowded into St Peter's Square for his weekly audience that the trip for him was a return to the very roots of the Roman Catholic faith.
He thanked the authorities and people of the region for their welcome and said he had reiterated to them the Holy See's desire for a `just peace' in the Middle East.
``I am unable to express the joy and gratitude I feel in my heart for this gift from God which I had hoped for for so long,'' the Pope, who turns 80 in May, said from his throne outside St Peter's Basilica.
He said his thoughts of Jerusalem, 'a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims,' will remain indelible in his memory.
The Pope said the culminating moment of his pilgrimage was the religious service in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection.
``That was the moment when my pilgrimage reached its climax. And that was the reason why I felt the need to return to pray in the afternoon on Calvary, where Christ shed his blood for humanity,'' he said.
He listed the feelings of joy he sensed at the youth mass on the shores of Lake Galilee, a mass in Amman, his silent moments in Bethlehem where the scriptures say Jesus was born and his visit to Nazareth, where Jesus spent his boyhood.
``I thank God for this unforgettable experience,'' he said.