Benedetto XVI Forum


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I did not realize I had not posted the text of the Holy Father's address to religious leaders in Jerusalem. I was put off by that unpleasant Tamimi incident. , and I don't want to post the address in the same box as the stories on the sheik's heedless breach of every standard of civilized conduct!

Too bad the Holy Father's lofty philosophical reflections here - on the duty of religions to truth and propagating it in the transcendent values that are universlly held in common by all the religions - are probably lost on religious leaders like Tamimi who are driven by ideology and nationalistic passion.

The interfaith meeting was held at the Notre Dame Center of Jerusalem, which is the Holy See's international pilgrim center with conference and hotel facilities in Jerusalem

So, in a way, the Holy Father was 'at home' at the Center. (Incidentally, in 2004, Pope John Paul II entrusted the center to the Legionaries of Christ.)

The Pope and Cardinal Bertone greet Rabbi Shear Cohen (first photo) and Sheikk Tamimi (second row, left)..



Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Religious Leaders,
Dear Friends,

It is a source of great joy for me to meet with you this evening. I wish to thank His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal for his kind words of welcome spoken on behalf of everyone present. I reciprocate the warm sentiments expressed and gladly greet all of you and the members of the groups and organizations you represent.

“God said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a land I shall show you’ … so Abram went … and took his wife Sarah with him” (Gen 12:1-5).

God’s irruptive call, which marks the beginning of the history of our faith traditions, was heard in the midst of man’s ordinary daily existence. And the history that ensued was shaped, not in isolation, but through the encounter with Egyptian, Hittite, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek cultures.

Faith is always lived within a culture. The history of religion shows that a community of believers proceeds by degrees of faithfulness to God, drawing from and shaping the culture it meets.

This same dynamic is found in individual believers from the great monotheistic traditions: attuned to the voice of God, like Abraham, we respond to his call and set out seeking the fulfillment of his promises, striving to obey his will, forging a path in our own particular culture.

Today, nearly four thousand years after Abraham, the encounter of religions with culture occurs not simply on a geographical plane. Certain aspects of globalization and, in particular, the world of the internet, have created a vast virtual culture, the worth of which is as varied as its countless manifestations.

Undoubtedly much has been achieved to create a sense of closeness and unity within the world-wide human family. Yet, at the same time, the boundless array of portals through which people so readily access undifferentiated sources of information can easily become an instrument of increasing fragmentation: the unity of knowledge is shattered and the complex skills of critique, discernment and discrimination learned through academic and ethical traditions are at times bypassed or neglected.

The question naturally arises then as to what contribution religion makes to the cultures of the world against the backdrop of rapid globalization.

Since many are quick to point out the readily apparent differences between religions, as believers or religious persons we are presented with the challenge to proclaim with clarity what we share in common.

Abraham’s first step in faith, and our steps to or from the synagogue, church, mosque or temple, tread the path of our single human history, unfolding along the way, we might say, to the eternal Jerusalem (cf. Rev 21:23).

Similarly, every culture with its inner capacity to give and receive gives expression to the one human nature. Yet, the individual is never fully expressed through his or her own culture, but transcends it in the constant search for something beyond.

From this perspective, dear friends, we see the possibility of a unity which is not dependent upon uniformity. While the differences we explore in inter-religious dialogue may at times appear as barriers, they need not overshadow the common sense of awe and respect for the universal, for the absolute and for truth, which impel religious peoples to converse with one another in the first place.

Indeed it is the shared conviction that these transcendent realities have their source in – and bear traces of – the Almighty that believers uphold before each other, our organizations, our society, our world.

In this way not only do we enrich culture but we shape it: lives of religious fidelity echo God’s irruptive presence and so form a culture not defined by boundaries of time or place but fundamentally shaped by the principles and actions that stem from belief.

Religious belief presupposes truth. The one who believes is the one who seeks truth and lives by it. Although the medium by which we understand the discovery and communication of truth differs in part from religion to religion, we should not be deterred in our efforts to bear witness to truth’s power.

Together we can proclaim that God exists and can be known, that the earth is his creation, that we are his creatures, and that he calls every man and woman to a way of life that respects his design for the world.

Friends, if we believe we have a criterion of judgment and discernment which is divine in origin and intended for all humanity, then we cannot tire of bringing that knowledge to bear on civic life.

Truth should be offered to all; it serves all members of society. It sheds light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and suffuses reason with the strength to reach beyond its own limitations in order to give expression to our deepest common aspirations.

Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable, and opens the gateway to peace.

Fostering the will to be obedient to the truth in fact broadens our concept of reason and its scope of application, and makes possible the genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.

Each one of us here also knows, however, that God’s voice is heard less clearly today, and reason itself has in so many instances become deaf to the divine.

Yet that “void” is not one of silence. Indeed, it is the din of egotistical demands, empty promises and false hopes that so often invades the very space in which God seeks us.

Can we then make spaces – oases of peace and profound reflection – where God’s voice can be heard anew, where his truth can be discovered within the universality of reason, where every individual, regardless of dwelling, or ethnic group, or political hue, or religious belief, can be respected as a person, as a fellow human being? In an age of instant access to information and social tendencies which engender a kind of monoculture, deep reflection against the backdrop of God’s presence will embolden reason, stimulate creative genius, facilitate critical appreciation of cultural practices and uphold the universal value of religious belief.

Friends, the institutions and groups that you represent engage in inter-religious dialogue and the promotion of cultural initiatives at a wide range of levels.

From academic institutions – and here I wish to make special mention of the outstanding achievements of Bethlehem University – to bereaved parents groups, from initiatives through music and the arts to the courageous example of ordinary mothers and fathers, from formal dialogue groups to charitable organizations, you daily demonstrate your belief that our duty before God is expressed not only in our worship but also in our love and concern for society, for culture,

for our world and for all who live in this land. Some would have us believe that our differences are necessarily a cause of division and thus at most to be tolerated.

A few even maintain that our voices should simply be silenced. But we know that our differences need never be misrepresented as an inevitable source of friction or tension either between ourselves or in society at large.

Rather, they provide a wonderful opportunity for people of different religions to live together in profound respect, esteem and appreciation, encouraging one another in the ways of God.

Prompted by the Almighty and enlightened by his truth, may you continue to step forward with courage, respecting all that differentiates us and promoting all that unites us as creatures blessed with the desire to bring hope to our communities and world. May God guide us along this path[!/DIM]


Panorama of Jerusalem, from the rooftop of the Notre Dame Center.

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12/05/2009 12.28
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12/05/2009 12.58
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May 12
Saints Nereus and Achilleus
and St. Pancratius (Pancras)
Roman Martyrs, 1st century

(Nereus and Achilleus were Praetorian Guards,
Pancras, of Syrian origin, was beheaded as a boy)

OR for 5/11-5/12:
Arriving in Israel, the Pope calls anti-Semitism completely unacceptable and asks for
'A just peace between Israel and Palestine'
The issue includes coverage of the Pope's last two days in Jordan, starting with the Saturday evening Vespers, The Sunday Mass and visit to Jesus's baptismal site and his departure from Amman; plus his arrival in Tel Aviv-Jerusalem.

Day 2 in Israel



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I originally posted this with the Reuters item in the previous page reporting the dissatisfaction of Israel's leading rabbis with the Pope's words at Yad Vashem - because I wanted to confine the negative fallout into one post.

But John Allen's take on the Pope's address is such a minefield of prejudices militating against Benedict XVI that it deserves to be treated separately. Especially since it expresses all the 'politically correct conventional wisdom' that prevails in MSM - how much more conformist can you be than to glib spout and amplify PC-CW!). And I do want to get this out of the way before tackling the full papal schedule today.

At Yad Vashem, what the Pope doesn't say makes waves:
apeech at Holocaust meorial draws mixed reviews

BY John L Allen Jr.
May 11, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has long been a figure who draws mixed reactions, with many admiring his clarity and intellectual depth, and others turned off by his traditionalism and occasional lack of a popular touch.

The pontiff's keenly anticipated visit today to Yad Vashem, the main Israeli Holocaust memorial, is likely to become another chapter in Benedict's mixed reviews.

Some are likely to see it as a stirring poetic meditation on memory and justice, while others will probably be more struck what the pope didn't say than what he did.

For one thing, there's no explicit expression of regret for Christian anti-Semitism, no allusion to the role that currents of thought within Christianity about Jews and Judaism may have played in preparing the soil for the Holocaust.

The omission is all the more striking given that on other occasions, Benedict XVI has acknowledged precisely that point. In a 1990 essay in L'Osservatore Romano, for example, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote of the hatred of Jews which led to the Holocaust, "it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to its atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians."

Pope John Paul II, during his own visit to Yad Vashem in 2000, said that the Catholic church "is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place."


Because there are muilitant Jews who will never be satisfied (they also happen to be the most visible and most publicized ones)- and it's sickening already that everyone in the media is so politically correct no one dares to point this out - this unconscionably insatiable demand to be apologized to, this perpetual self-victimization!

THERE ARE SO MANY POSITIVE WAYS TO ENSURE THAT THE HOLOCAUST LESSON IS NEVER LOST TO MANKIND - BEST EXEMPLIFIED BY THE MOTTO OF THE U.S. HOLOCAUST MUSEUM, 'NEVER AGAIN!" Which is the same message that Benedict XVI says every chance he gets. Why should he recapitulate the history of the Holocaust every time he refers to it? Particularly at Yad Vashem, which is all about the Holocaust!]

In Benedict's address today, there was also no direct reference to the recent controversy involving Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the breakaway traditionalist society of St. Pius X, whose excommunication, along with three other traditionalist prelates, was recently lifted by Pope Benedict.

[Why on earth would he bring up Williamson in the Holocaust museum? And why should Allen, of all people, demand this? The critical rabbis yesterday did not even mention that!

The Pope's address at Yad Vashem was not intended to be a cover-all answer for all the unjust charges made against him. First, Popes never directly answer specific charges. More importantly, Benedict XVI would never think of using any occasion - much less this unique occasion in a unique setting - to defend himself or even speak about himself.

He made it clear at Yad Vashem that he was speaking as Pope and Successor of Peter - not as Joseph Ratzinger, German (as he expressly did, at Auschwitz). And he offered a philosophical reflection on the concept of name and identity as unforgettable to God - which is more original and helpful to ordinary people, even Jews, when considering the Holocaust than the usual banalities.]

That act became a cause célèbre be cause Williamson has a long record of minimizing the Holocaust,
[Right! So long and so well-known that Allen, who generally poses as the know-it-all in Catholic journalism, never once wrote about it before January 21, 2009, no better than everybody else????]
including the assertion that the Nazis did not use gas chambers and that far fewer than six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

Benedict did, however, insist that the suffering of the "millions of Jews" who perished should "never be denied, belittled or forgotten."

Equally striking, the Pontiff never alluded to his own personal experience of the Second World War. The young Joseph Ratzinger was briefly and involuntarily enrolled in the Hitler Youth, and was later drafted into the German army. He ended the war in an American prisoner of war camp near Ulm, Germany. [IDEM. supra cit.]

Generally speaking, Benedict XVI does not draw upon his own biography in public in the style of John Paul, who recalled his experience growing up in Poland under the Nazis during his 2000 address at Yad Vashem. Nevertheless, if ever there were an occasion that seemed to beckon such a touch, a German pontiff visiting Yad Vashem would seem to be it. [Not necessarily! It's a matter of personal taste and style - something he demonstrated amply at Auschwitz.]

Moreover, it's not that Benedict XVI has a blanket policy against personal references. During his recent trip to Angola, he said that he could identify with their experience of civil war because of his own memories as a youth in war-torn Germany.

[Because he experienced the war directly! Even if he knew about German persecution of the Jews starting with Kristallnacht, like the rest of Germany and the world, he learned of the Holocaust itself after the fact - after the Allies discovered all the corpses and crematoria in 1945, confirmed later on by all the revealed Nazi decrees on the so-called Final Solution. No one - not even the Jews themselves, not Churchill or Roosevelt - was aware of the Holocaust as the literal holocaust that it was while it was tkaing place. It was only after the war that the horrendous extent of the German genocide program became known.]

Early indications are that even longtime Jewish friends of the Catholic church may be left slightly cold by Benedict's words. [Are they really 'friends' if they cna be 'left cold' by all that the Holy Father did say yesterday, knowing how much else he has said in teh past???? Or have they simply been claiming friendship for convenience or other self-interested reasons?]

Rabbi David Rosen, a longtime veteran of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, told NCR this afternoon that the most important thing is that Benedict went to Yad Vashem in the first place, and that his comments on Holocaust denial were valuable.

Nonetheless, Rosen said, "it's disappointing that he didn't use this opportunity to go further, and acknowledge the tragic connection between the teaching of contempt and Jewish suffering."

[Just another variation on the apology theme - and its implied verdict that Christian contempt was ultimately responsible for the Holocaust.

Which is completely wrong, because Hitler's rejection of the Jews clearly had nothing to do with their religion but their race (non-Aryan = inferior, unworthy creature, in the Nazi ideological lexicon) - and that's a completely different thing from the roots of the Christian tradition of anti-Semticism, which was due to the obviously wrong belief that since Jews killed Jesus, all Jesus are guilty of deicide - a belief that was also most un-Christian in every sense, especially since Jesus forgave his executioners from the Cross!

I'm gagging from all this historical 'ignorance' - in the literal sense of ignoring historical fact and perpetrating myth in place of fact. I cna understand Rosen's insistence because he is a Jew, but what horse is Allen riding anyway - other than seeking to impose and project his own personal standards on Benedict XVI. In which context he is just some pesky flea buzzing in the elephant's ear.

On the other hand, some Jewish leaders seemed to stress gratitude for Benedict’s presence at Yad Vashem, almost apart from what he said.

"It’s not a great day for those who reject peaceful co-existence," Rabbi Arthur Schneier told NCR. A Holocaust survivor, Schneier hosted Benedict XVI last April when he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York.

Schneier also said that the Pope’s speech at Yad Vashem should be read in the context of his strong words this morning at the Tel Aviv airport about fighting anti-Semitism, as well as his reference to the bonds between Christianity and Judaism at Mount Nebo in Jordan just days ago.

[Schneier, who has been stuanchly loyal to Benedict XVI all these months, is the only one who has commented rationally so far about this. Benedict XVI obciously decided to tackle the major issues regarding Judaism and Israel at this airport arrival speech - to make himself clear again, first and foremost, as he began this visit to Israel. For which he was universally applauded, even by the same rabbis who criticized him for what he did not say at Yad Vashem. Yet they exoected him to repeat himself at Yad Vashem.

To fault him for not saying all the things they want to hear is equivalent to diminishing the importance of his visit. Do you think all this would have been avoided if he had prefaced his own address by saying, "Nine years ago, my beloved predecessor came here and said memorable words that you all recall. I am here to profess the same sentiments, to which I would now like to add this reflection"? No, they would have said, "Well, he should have repeated them in his own words!"

Holocaust passion seems to be an insatiable beast that must be constantly fed with what it wants to hear, otherwise it roars, breathes fire and brimstone, and threatens to devour whoever fails to do so.

Surely it is possible to look forward positively, never forgetting the lesson of the Holocaust - as Jews like Rabbi Schneier and Gary Krupp do - instead of forever looking back with so much rancour.

This is the second occasion when a speech by Benedict XVI at a key site associated with the Holocaust has drawn mixed reviews. When he visited Auschwitz three years ago, he suggested that the Nazis attempt to eradicate the Jews was ultimately an attempt to eradicate God, and thus to destroy "the tap root of the Christian faith." (A concept he expressed many times in the past, including at his keynote address in the first International Jewish-Christian Relations Conference in jerusalem in 1994. No one protested then.]

Some critics took that as an attempt to minimize the uniqueness of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.

[No! Their suffering was not unique. Genocides have happened in the past - and the horror of mass murder is not 'morally amplified' by the numbers involved: It is the same outrage to God when one human being is killed, or 400 as in Gaza rencetly, or six million as in the Shoah.

What is the moral distinction between the sufferings of, say, all the refugees left to starve to death in Darfur through no fault of their own, and the sufferings of the Jews who were sent to the Nazi death camps?

What is the moral distinction even between that and the sufferings of all the displaced Palestinians and their descendants, even if most of them chose to leave Israeli territory after Israel decisively won the First Arab-Isareli War (which the Arabs launched to try and abortt the newly-created State of Israel)?

Benedict said that standing at Yad Vashem's reflecting pool and seeing the faces of victims, "their cry still echoes in our hearts." He pledged that the Catholic church "is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again." ;And that goes for relentlessly rancorous Jews, as well: rnacour is just another form of hatred.]

"It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence," the Pope said. "It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood." [All innocent blood - including Israeli and Palesitnian civilians victimized in the current cnflict.]


Belatedly but thankfully, I see that Sandro Magister reacts appropriately to the Yad Vashem address, as he has always shown the right discernment and appreciation for Benedict XVI's texts, particularly in their theological and pastoral sense. And happily, we share the adjective 'original' to describe the reflections offered by the Holy Father yesterday.

But, of course, the world is still only too ready to pounce on the Pope - as the MSM did yesterday, with relentlessly militant Jews demanding their pound of flesh every chance they get. If Christians sinned of anti-Semitism in centuries long past, does that justify the Jews pursuing their own bigotry till Kingdom come?

The Pope in Israel:
Day One - two surprises

The world was ready to pounce on him, over the most explosive questions: anti-Semitism, the war.
But Benedict XVI did it his own way. He took two words from the Bible.
With the first, he explained the conditions for peace.
With the second, he illuminated the mystery of the Holocaust.


ROME, May 12, 2009 – As soon as he landed in Israel on Monday, Benedict XVI immediately took up the most controversial questions: first, peace and security, then the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

On both fronts, the ambush was set. He was subjected to constant pressure, not all of it above-board. For many of his critics, the script was already written, and they were simply waiting to judge whether and how the Pope would stick to it.

Instead, Benedict XVI acted with surprising originality, in both cases. [Alas, with few to appreciate it, at least judging by immediate MSM reactions.]

He asserted the unbreakable bond between the arrival of peace and that "seeking God" which had been the dominant theme of his memorable speech to cultural figures in Paris: one of the capital discourses of his pontificate.

He developed the theme of security – which is crucial for Israel – on the basis of the biblical word "betah," which means security, but also trust: and the one cannot stand without the other.

On his visit to Yad Vashem – the memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, where their names are inscribed by the millions – the Pope illustrated the meaning of another biblical word: the "name."

The names of all "are indelibly inscribed in the memory of Almighty God." And therefore "one can never take away the name of another human being," not even when one intends to take away everything he has.

"The cry of the slain rises from the ground as in the time of Abel, against any spilling of innocent blood, and God hears all of their cries, because "his mercies are not spent."

The Pope wrote these last words, taken from the book of Lamentations, in the guest book that he signed.

[Magister then eproduces the texts of the two apeeches referred to.]

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Photo inset in the right photo shows Mons. Gaenswein assisting the Pope in taking off his shoes before entering the mosque.
No pictures of the visit inside the mosque have been released so far.

Translated from the Vatican press bulletin:

At 8:45 this morning (Tuesday), the Holy Father Benedict XVI left the Apostolic Delegation residence and travelled by car to Temple Mount (called Noble Sanctuary by the Muslims) , arriving at the Dome of the Rock at 9 a.m. The Dome is the oldest Islamic temple of worship in the Holy Land.

He was welcomed by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the President of the Council of the Waqf (in charge of Islamic cultural treasures).

After a brief visit to the mosque, the Holy Father proceeded to the offies of the building of the "al-Kubbah al-Nahawiyya" for a meeting with important representatives of Jerusalem's Muslim community.

After greetings from his two hosts, the Holy Father delivered the following address:


Dear Muslim Friends,

As-salámu ‘aláikum! Peace upon you!

I cordially thank the Grand Mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, together with the Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, Sheikh Mohammed Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi, and the Head of the Awquaf Council, Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, for the welcome they have extended to me on your behalf.

I am deeply grateful for the invitation to visit this sacred place, and I willingly pay my respects to you and the leaders of the Islamic community in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world’s three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common.

Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing. Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony.

In a world sadly torn by divisions, this sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.

Since the teachings of religious traditions ultimately concern the reality of God, the meaning of life, and the common destiny of mankind – that is to say, all that is most sacred and dear to us – there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success.

Yet we can begin with the belief that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy, since in him the two exist in perfect unity. Those who confess his name are entrusted with the task of striving tirelessly for righteousness while imitating his forgiveness, for both are intrinsically oriented to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the human family.

For this reason, it is paramount that those who adore the One God should show themselves to be both grounded in and directed towards the unity of the entire human family.

In other words, fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally inter-related, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal.

Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity.

This places a grave responsibility upon us. Those who honor the One God believe that he will hold human beings accountable for their actions.

Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity.

Undivided love for the One God and charity towards one's neighbor thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns. This is why we work untiringly to safeguard human hearts from hatred, anger or vengeance.

Dear friends, I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith. I thank God for this occasion to meet you as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, but also as a child of Abraham, by whom "all the families of the earth find blessing" (Gen 12:3; cf. Rom 4:16-17).

I assure you of the Church’s ardent desire to cooperate for the well-being of the human family. She firmly believes that the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham is universal in scope, embracing all men and women regardless of provenance or social status.

As Muslims and Christians further the respectful dialogue they have already begun, I pray that they will explore how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family.

In submitting to his loving plan for creation, in studying the law inscribed in the cosmos and implanted in the human heart, in reflecting upon the mysterious gift of God’s self-revelation, may all his followers continue to keep their gaze fixed on his absolute goodness, never losing sight of the way it is reflected in the faces of others.

With these thoughts, I humbly ask the Almighty to grant you peace and to bless all the beloved people of this region. May we strive to live in a spirit of harmony and cooperation, bearing witness to the One God by generously serving one another. Thank you!


At the end of the encounter, the Holy Father was driven by car to the Western Wall at the foot of Temple Mount.

WOW! I think this is the most beautiful text he has yet addressed to any Muslim audience - and does great justice to the awesome sacred history of the place.


The Israeli government released a photo (above, right) of the prayer that the Pope left in the Wall. (Presumably these prayers are gathered afterwards by the rabbis in charge of the Western Wall.)

Translated from the Vatican press bulletin:

At 10 a.m.. the Holy Father reached the Western Wall (also commonly known as the 'Wailing Wall'), a fragment of the original sustaining wall on the western side of Jerusalem's main temple destroyed by the Romans in 78 AD.

He was welcomed by the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and the President of the Foundation that administers this holy site, considered Judaism's most sacred.

The rabbi read a psalm in Hebrew, and the Holy Father read one in Latin, after which he approached the wall to say an prayer and, following tradtion, left a pryaer note in a crack of the wall, as John Paul II had done before him in 2000.

Pope visits Western Wall

Jerusalem, May 12 (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI visited Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall, Tuesday, on the second day of a five-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Eyes closed, hands clashed in front of him, the Pontiff stood silently in front of the massive blocks which make up the wall, after carefully placing a folded prayer between its cracks, as worshippers have been doing at the wall for centuries.


God of all the ages,

on my visit to Jerusalem, the “City of Peace”, spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations, the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft; send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of all who call upon your name, to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him!"
(Lam 3:25)


Before slowly approaching the wall, which had been cleared of worshippers for the papal visit, Benedict read out a prayer in Latin.

It was unclear whether the prayer he placed in the cracks of the wall was the same prayer he had read out.

Following his visit to the Western Wall, Benedict departed for a meeting with Israel's two chief rabbis.

Translated from the Vatican press bulletin:

After the visit to the Western Wall, the Pope was driven to the Hechal Schlomo Center, seat of the Grand Rabbinate in Jerusalem, for a courtesy visit with the two Chief Rabbis of Israel: Yona Metzger, Ashkenazi rabbi, and Schlomo Amaer, Sephardic rabbi.


After a private conversation and an exchange of gifts, the Pope delivered the following address:


Distinguished Rabbis,
Dear Friends,

I am grateful for the invitation to visit Heichal Shlomo and to meet with you during this trip of mine to the Holy Land as Bishop of Rome.

I thank Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger for their warm words of welcome and the desire they have expressed to continue strengthening the bonds of friendship which the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate have labored so diligently to forge over the past decades.

Your visits to the Vatican in 2003 and 2005 are a sign of the good will which characterizes our developing relations.

Distinguished Rabbis, I reciprocate by expressing my own respect and esteem for you and your communities. I assure you of my desire to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation between the Holy See, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.

A great source of satisfaction for me since the beginning of my pontificate has been the fruit yielded by the ongoing dialogue between the Delegation of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church.

I wish to thank the members of both delegations for their dedication and hard work in implementing this initiative, so earnestly desired by my esteemed predecessor Pope John Paul II, as he said during the Great Jubilee Year of 2000.

Our encounter today is a most fitting occasion to give thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings which have accompanied the dialogue conducted by the Bilateral Commission, and to look forward with expectation to its future sessions.

The willingness of the delegates to discuss openly and patiently not only points of agreement, but also points of difference, has already paved the way to more effective collaboration in public life.

Jews and Christians alike are concerned to ensure respect for the sacredness of human life, the centrality of the family, a sound education for the young, and the freedom of religion and conscience for a healthy society.

These themes of dialogue represent only the initial phases of what we trust will be a steady, progressive journey towards an enhanced mutual understanding.

An indication of the potential of this series of meetings is readily seen in our shared concern in the face of moral relativism and the offences it spawns against the dignity of the human person.

In approaching the most urgent ethical questions of our day, our two communities are challenged to engage people of good will at the level of reason, while simultaneously pointing to the religious foundations which best sustain lasting moral values.

May the dialogue that has begun continue to generate ideas on how Christians and Jews can work together to heighten society’s appreciation of the distinctive contribution of our religious and ethical traditions.

Here in Israel, given that Christians constitute only a small portion of the total population, they particularly value opportunities for dialogue with their Jewish neighbors.

Trust is undeniably an essential element of effective dialogue. Today I have the opportunity to repeat that the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path chosen at the Second Vatican Council for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews.

As the Declaration Nostra Aetate makes clear, the Church continues to value the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews and desires an ever deeper mutual understanding and respect through biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues.

May the seven Bilateral Commission meetings which have already taken place between the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate stand as evidence! I am thus grateful for your reciprocal assurance that the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate will continue to grow in respect and understanding in the future.

My friends, I express again my deep appreciation for the welcome you have extended to me today. I am confident that our friendship will continue to set an example of trust in dialogue for Jews and Christians throughout the world.

Looking at the accomplishments achieved thus far, and drawing our inspiration from the Holy Scriptures, we can confidently look forward to even stronger cooperation between our communities – together with all people of good will – in decrying hatred and oppression throughout the world.

I pray that God, who searches our hearts and knows our thoughts (Ps 139:23), will continue to enlighten us with his wisdom, so that we may follow his commandments to love him with all our heart, soul and strength (cf. Dt 6:5), and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev 19:18). Thank you.


After this meeting, the Holy Father proceeded to the Cenacle or Upper Room on Mt. Zion.

The tone of the Holy Father's remarks to the rabbis and other Jewish religious leaders reflect his familiarity with them from their work on the Bilateral Commission and their visits to Rome for that purpose.

But some militant Jews may fault him ytt again for not mentioning the Shoah nor the Nazis nor Germany and for not 'making an apology'. Watch for the next act of their 'Make the Christians pay their pound of flesh' psychodrama!

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This AP story actually wraps up most of the Pope's second day in Israel, but leads off with the Yad Vashem fallout and the Vatican reaction. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, MSM do have the power to shape reporting of the news - and that way, the news itself - because they call the shots, as it were, for the rest of media to follow.

Vatican defends Pope Benedict
from Israeli criticism


JERUSALEM, May 12 (AP) — The Vatican defended the Pope today from a growing chorus of Israeli critics who accused the German-born Benedict XVI of failing to express enough remorse for the Holocaust — a controversy that threatened to eclipse a papal pilgrimage aimed at building bridges between faiths.

The Pope delivered messages of peace while visiting the holiest Muslim and Jewish sites in Jerusalem — the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

But his speech Monday at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial attracted the most attention in Israel, with the parliament speaker accusing Benedict of glossing over the Nazi genocide.

Newspapers lambasted him for failing to apologize for what many in Israel see as Catholic indifference during World War II and the Pope’s own wartime actions — he served [INVOLUNTARILY!] in the Hitler Youth corps and Nazi army — have also cast a shadow. [It is completely irresponsible of teh editors at AP not to have added an Editor's Note to make it clear that this all happened to a teenager who was conscripted [that's forced labor!] like his other contemporaries!]

“The Pope spoke like a historian, as somebody observing from the sidelines, about things that shouldn’t happen. But what can you do? He was part of them,” said Parliament Speaker Reuven Rivlin. “With all due respect to the Holy See, we cannot ignore the baggage he carries with him.”

The Pope delivered an emotional address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, saying the cry of those killed by the regime under which he grew up “still echoes in our hearts.”

But only moments after he spoke, Yad Vashem’s top two officials criticized him for failing to use the words “Nazis” or “murder” in his speech.

Israeli newspapers today were filled with criticism.

“One would have expected the Vatican’s cardinals to prepare a more intelligent text for their boss,” columnist Tom Segev said. [IGNORANT BIGOT, who piles inslt on injury by feigning he does not know the Pope writes his own speeches.]

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi defended Benedict, saying the Pope had mentioned his German roots previously, specifically when visiting a synagogue in Cologne, Germany, in 2005 and at the Auschwitz death camp the following year.

“He can’t mention everything every time he speaks,” Lombardi told reporters in Jerusalem. [And it's not as if there is anyone who does not know he is German! And yet, vfrom what I read, even Italian TV commentators have been unnecessarily offensive by referring to him all the time on this coverage as the German Pope.

The Holocaust is an extremely sensitive subject in Israel. The Jewish state was founded in the wake of the Nazi genocide of 6 million European Jews, and more than 200,000 elderly Holocaust survivors live in Israel.

The Vatican’s wartime Pope, Pius XII, has been criticized by Jews for doing little to prevent the Holocaust — a charge the Church denies. ['To prevent the Holocaust"! Now they're escalating the responsibility they're imposing unilaterally on Pius XII. As if there were any one signle agency that could have done that under the circumstances then - let alone the Pope 'who has no divisions' and whose moral authority had no meaning at all to Hitler and his band of amoral thugs!]

Benedict’s wartime history is discomforting in Israel, even though he has explained that he was forced to join Hitler Youth and that he later deserted the military.

More recently, he upset Jewish leaders by revoking the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop. The Pope has acknowledged mistakes in the case [Communications mistakes, not the excommunication recall itself, to which Williamson's opinions about history are completely irrelevant] and the bishop remains barred from rejoining the Catholic clergy. [Dear Lord, this reporter does not care if he does not know whereof he speaks!]

At his news conference, Lombardi claimed Benedict was never in the Hitler Youth. However, the Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said in a 1997 book that he joined the movement when membership was compulsory. [This story just get more muddled. Can Fr. Lombardi have said what he is claimed to have said? And note the semantic crafting of "he joined the movement when membership was compulsory" to the simpler "He had no choice but to obey a compulsory order."]

In his first speech after arriving in Israel Monday, the Pope pledged to remember the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and condemned anti-Semitism. And at Yad Vashem, the 82-year-old Pontiff met with elderly Holocaust survivors before delivering an eloquent speech.

“May the names of these victims never perish. May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten,” Benedict, not known for his emotional displays, said in hushed tones.

Some survivors welcomed the speech, even if they felt it didn’t go far enough. The “Pope is not the president of a Zionist organization, so why should we have any complaints toward him,” Noah Frug, the head of a survivors’ group, told the Ynet Web site.

Benedict has made reconciliation a major theme of his five-day pilgrimage to Israel and the West Bank. He took this message to the most contentious religious site the Holy Land today, urging Israel and the Palestinians to engage in “a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace.”

The Pope visited the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and the adjacent Western Wall, revered by Jews as a remnant of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.

Competing claims to the hilltop compound — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount — have sparked violence in the past. Resolving the dispute has been the most intractable issue during more than 15 years of on-and-off Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The visit included a private meeting with the top Islamic cleric in the Holy Land, the Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein.

Hussein said afterward that he told the Pope of the Palestinians’ suffering “and we asked for justice in this Holy Land.” He also handed the Pope a letter urging the Vatican to use its influence to end Israel’s “aggression” against the Palestinians. Asked how the Pope responded, he replied, “We felt he was receptive.”

[The Pope must also have thought of Palestinian terrorist aggression agains Israelis, even if to hear the Palestinians -and even Mons. Twal - one would think Israel has never been the victim of Palestinian aggression: either that, or that they feel it is perfectly all right for Palestinians to target Israeli civilians with suicide bombers, but wrong for the Israelis to defend their country legitimately against terrorist bombers (through the Fence] and through military action against Hamas aggression [daily rocket attacks against Israel's southeren cities

What has consistently been evident in any discussion or reporting of teh Isralei-Palestinian conflict is that very few can look at the situation objectively and see that there is right and wrong on each side, as there always is in human affairs. But moral discernment is necessarily lost the moment one takes sides.].

Benedict angered many in the Muslim world three years ago when he quoted a medieval text that characterized some of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.” He later expressed regret that his comments offended Muslims.

At the Dome of the Rock, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Jerusalem and part of the compound that is Islam’s third-holiest site, the Pope removed his red shoes before entering as a sign of respect. A priest helped him slip them back on as he left.

At the Western Wall, Benedict inserted a note between the ancient crevices of the Western Wall, the last remnant of the second of two biblical temples and Judaism’s holiest shrine.

The written blessing asked “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” to “hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft; send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family.”

At the Dome of the Rock, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Jerusalem and part of the compound that is Islam’s third-holiest site, the pope removed his red shoes before entering as a sign of respect. A priest helped him slip them back on as he left.

At the Western Wall, Benedict inserted a note between the ancient crevices of the Western Wall, the last remnant of the second of two biblical temples and Judaism’s holiest shrine.

The written blessing asked “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” to “hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft; send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family.”

Simpson has since added the following paragraphs to complete his account of the day:

Later Tuesday, the Pope told Israel's two chief rabbis that the Roman Catholic Church is "irrevocably committed" to "a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews.

One of the rabbis, Yona Metzger, welcomed the interfaith efforts. "We must continue on this path and teach leaders of the other faiths that not by terror will they achieve their aims," he said.

Jews suffered centuries of persecution at the hands of the church, which traditionally held them responsible for rejecting and killing Jesus. The church disavowed that view in the 1960s, rejected anti-Semitism and started dialogue with other religions.

Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, made huge strides in the relationship, asking forgiveness on several occasions, including during his landmark 2000 trip to Israel, for the wrongs inflicted by Christians on Jews.

On Tuesday, Benedict also visited the traditional site of the Last Supper, where he received a warm welcome from some 400 Catholic clergy and worshippers at the Latin Patriarchate.

The pontiff arrived in his popemobile for an outdoor Mass next to the Garden of Gethsemane, the site where Christianity says Jesus was arrested. Happy crowds cheered and surged around the vehicle, and the pontiff smiled and waved.

But there, too, politics intruded when Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, a Palestinian, told the gathering that Jesus is still weeping over Israeli injustices to Palestinians in Jerusalem.

[Frankly, I was shocked by Mons. Twal's openly partisan speech openlng the Papal Mass, using the strongest words to denounce Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. I felt it was out of place during the Holy Father's pilgrimage for peace and reconciliation.

And while I understand that he is entitled to have his personal political opinions, it is not his business to involve the Church in partisan politics. Even if he thinks it concerns only his own local Church, does he think that such a high-visibility attack on Israel is going to make the Israelis more lenient or generous in the pending Church status talks that have gone nowhere in 13 years? He is the pastor for all Christians in his diocese, not only of the Palestinians.

Besides, he already got more than enough international media play in the days preceding the Pope's arrival, saying the same things he said today in interviews he granted right and left. [Which were equally wrong in principle, but at least he was not doing it at a Papal Mass). It was wrong to avail of the Papal Mass for this purpose

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I have been trying to make progress with my posts since mid-afternoon, but I keep getting glitches that freeze up my PC before I have time to save what I have assembled.


Translated from the Vatican press bulletin:


From the Hechal Schlomo Center, the Holy Father proceeded to the Upper Room or Cenacle, wherw according to tradition, the Last Supper and the first Pentecost took place, for a meeting with the ordinaries (bishops) of the Holy Land and their clergy.

The encouner started weith the singing of 'Veni Crator Spiritus' and a greeting from Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, who heads the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land 9and is addressed as 'Custos')

Here is the text of the Holy Father's address:


Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Father Custos,

It is with great joy that I greet you, the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, in this Upper Room where according to tradition the Lord opened his heart to his chosen disciples and celebrated the Paschal Mystery, and where the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost inspired the early disciples to go forth and preach the good news.

I thank Father Pizzaballa for the warm words of welcome which he has expressed to me on your behalf. You represent the Catholic communities of the Holy Land who, in their faith and devotion, are like lighted candles illuminating the holy places that were graced by the presence of Jesus our living Lord. This unique privilege gives you and your people a special place of affection in my heart as the Successor of Peter.

"When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1).

The Upper Room recalls the last supper of our Lord with Peter and the other apostles and invites the Church to prayerful contemplation. In this vein we gather together, the Successor of Peter with successors of the apostles, in this same place where Jesus revealed in the offering of his own body and blood, the new depths of the covenant of love established between God and his people.

In the Upper Room the mystery of grace and salvation, of which we are recipients and also heralds and ministers, can be expressed only in terms of love. Because he has loved us first and continues to do so, we can respond with love (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 2).

Our life as Christians is not simply a human effort to live the demands of the Gospel imposed upon us as duties. In the Eucharist we are drawn into the mystery of divine love. Our lives become a grateful, docile and active acceptance of the power of a love which is given to us.

This transforming love, which is grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:17), prompts us, as individuals and communities, to overcome the temptation to turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear, and to give ourselves generously to the Lord and to others. It moves us as Christian communities to be faithful to our mission with frankness and courage (cf. Acts 4:13).

In the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his flock, in the Teacher who washes the feet of his disciples, you find, my dear brothers, the model of your own ministry in the service of our God who promotes love and communion.

The call to communion of mind and heart, so closely related to the commandment of love and to the central unifying role of the Eucharist in our lives, is of special relevance in the Holy Land.

The different Christian Churches found here represent a rich and varied spiritual patrimony and are a sign of the multiple forms of interaction between the Gospel and different cultures.

They also remind us that the mission of the Church is to preach the universal love of God and to gather, from far and near, all who are called by him, in such a way that, with their traditions and their talents, they form the one family of God.

A new spiritual impulse towards communion in diversity within the Catholic Church and a new ecumenical awareness have marked our times, especially since the Second Vatican Council.

The Spirit moves our hearts gently towards humility and peace, towards mutual acceptance, comprehension and cooperation. This inner disposition to unity under the prompting of the Holy Spirit is decisive if Christians are to fulfill their mission in the world (cf. Jn:17:21).

In the measure in which the gift of love is accepted and grows in the Church, the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the neighboring regions will be vibrant. This presence is of vital importance for the good of society as a whole.

The clear words of Jesus on the intimate bond between love of God and love of neighbor, on mercy and compassion, on meekness, peace and forgiveness,