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5/23/2009 7:13 PM
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'Now that the Pope has left,
time for us to reap
the fruits of his visit'

by Marie Amelie Beaulieu
CTS News
22 May 2009

JEUSALEM - During a press conference held at the Notre Dame Center on Wednesday, May 20, His Beatitude Mgr. Fouad Twal and Nuncio and Apostolic Delegate Mgr. Antonio Franco both considered Pope Benedict XVI’s Holy Land pilgrimage to have been “more than 90% successful.”

Asked first about the 10% that would be considered less than positive, Mgr. Twal answered that according to the Arabic proverb, “Perfection is for God alone.”

When the journalists insisted on a more specific answer, he added that the Israeli security measures were “more Catholic than the pope,” at least in terms of security, leading to some difficulties, specifically, he added in an interview with journalists, in relation to participation in the May 12 Mass in Jerusalem’s Cedron Valley.

But both the Patriarch and the Nuncio emphatically insisted on the positive aspects of the visit.

He came as a pilgrim, showing the importance of the Holy Places as places of “returning to the roots.” In doing so, “he encouraged the Christians of the world to follow his example and come as pilgrims to the Holy Land to pray and to connect with local communities, so as to pray for us and with us, and to pray together for peace and for all those who live in the region,” Mons. Twal said.

The Holy Father addressed the local Christian community as a pastor: “He had the pleasure of hearing us and listening to us, and he delivered a message to us. Now, it’s up to us to calmly take his speeches and homilies to heart in order to be absorb their messages and to live by them.”

As a Head of State, the Sovereign Pontiff was extremely clear on the position of the Church as a proponent of the two-state solution. “The Holy Father reminded us very clearly of Israel’s right to live in security. Let us recognize Israel’s rights as well as the Palestinians’ rights to a homeland and to a state, and let us do what we can to bring peace to this part of the world,” said the Apostolic Nuncio.

In general, the two prelates stressed the time that it would take for the message of the Pope’s visit to become fully ingrained in people’s minds: “We need to take the time to reread his speeches in order to understand the message that he wanted to convey to us. (…) There won’t be immediate results today, or even tomorrow. We need more time. Give some time to Time itself, and to Providence. (…) But this message of dialogue, peace, and reconciliation will bear fruit,” the Patriarch stated.

Mgr. Franco said, “The message needs to be received and studied, and it certainly needs to be applied in an active way. Of course, this will depend on the willingness of each of us to truly listen to it and to adapt our own attitudes to the positive instructions the Holy Father gave us.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Nuncio replied, “The role of the Church is certainly not a direct one, but it is up to the Church to train and educate people about peace and respect, and to make people able to accept each other, forgive each other, and create new possibilities and opportunities for the creation of conditions necessary for peace, by supporting positive efforts and attempting to conquer the forces of resignation and passivity.”

With regard to the inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, Mgr. Twal said that the Holy Father had been “happy to report that across religions there was a willingness to engage in dialogue, and he was happy to observe that there was good will. In a way, he was also happy to observe the complexity of our situation. It’s one thing for him to read reports; it’s another thing for him to actually experience the reality of the situation.”

As for the disputes following the Yad Vashem speech, the Apostolic Nuncio felt that some people expected the Pope to follow a prepared script, but he said:

“I encourage you to consider the entirety of the words uttered by the Pope, in particular at the airport, at Yad Vashem, and during his final speech. If we consider all three of those moments together and truly try to penetrate into the Pope’s thoughts, the message he gave us about the Holocaust leaves nothing to be desired.

H"e said, 'Never again'. His reflections on the Name at Yad Vashem are the most beautiful reflections he shared with us about memory and our obligation to remember".

When Mons. Twal was asked what image will stick out more than any other in his mind, he said, “I don’t want there to be just one image. I want a whole photo album full of those magnificent moments in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.”

Mons. Franco concluded by saying, “We have experienced the grace of the Lord and received a gift from Him, and we saw the hand of God in action. This visit was a success despite the difficulties, because the Holy Father was able to experience the concrete realities of our life in the Holy Land.”

About the 'five percent that did not go well':

Vatican seeks answers on
low turnout at Jerusalem Mass

The Mass at the Valley of Josaphat just below the Moutn of Olives. Photo below shows the mass site inr elation to the Church of Gethsemane (top left and inset).

JERUSALEM, May 22 (AP) - Roman Catholic officials want an explanation from Israel for the poor turnout at Pope Benedict's open-air Mass in Jerusalem last week.

The Vatican's ambassador to the Holy Land says Church officials are conducting an "inquiry" into reports that people with tickets were turned away at the entrance.

About 5,000 worshippers were expected at the Mass. But no more than 3,000 people arrived.

Worshippers were required to have tickets to enter, and due to heavy Israeli security, they had to arrive hours ahead of time.

Monsignor Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio to the Holy Land, says it's premature to blame Israel for the logistical problems. But he says he will press the Israelis for answers.

An Israeli police spokesman says the event went smoothly from a security perspective, and says he doesn't know why people did not attend.

In fairness, news reports on the day of the Mass mentioned that many people chose not to come to the Mass because of the inconvenience in security arrangements that required attendees to be there hours before the event and because the strictest security measures were in place.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/23/2009 10:30 PM]
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