Pope's visit sparks high hopes
By MATTHEW WAGNER
April 30, 2009
Religious leaders representing the local Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and Protestant communities met at the Notre Dame Cultural Center in Jerusalem on Thursday to voice their expectations of the Pope during his visit to the Holy Land.
Dr. Munib Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, said he hoped Benedict XVI would support a two-state solution and reject "occupation and settlements."
"The security of Israel is important to us," Younan said. "And this security depends on a just treatment of the Palestinian people. Jerusalem should be a city shared by all religions and serve as a model of peaceful religious coexistence. There are extremists on both sides who are trying to turn the conflict into a religious war. Religion must instead be a source of inspiration for peaceful coexistence."
The symposium was sponsored by the US State Department; Mercy Corps, a nondenominational Portland, Oregon-based aid organization; and the Inter-Religious Coordination Council in Israel, a coalition of 70 Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups.
Father William Shomali, rector of the Latin Seminary in Bet Jala, near Bethlehem, said he hoped the Pope would help Jews, Christians and Muslims to recognize the suffering of "the other."
"The Pope will visit Yad Vashem to recognize the suffering of the Jews, he will visit with the Armenians to remember their suffering and the 1.5 million who were killed, and he will also devote time to acknowledging the Palestinian people's suffering," Shomali said. "I hope the Holy Father will help all of us escape our complexities of victimization. Part of the process of reconciliation is admitting one's guilt."
Shomali, a Palestinian, called the present state of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue "an exercise in futility."
"Like Joshua in the Old Testament, we must break down the walls, all of the invisible barriers such as fears, phobias and hatred that prevent us from making peace."
Shomali recalled how during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2000, suspicion between Muslim and Jewish religious leaders foiled attempts at religious dialogue.
"Until the last minute it was unclear whether the grand mufti of Jerusalem would arrive," Shomali said. "Neither rabbis nor muftis were willing to submit their speeches in advance. And they refused to join the Pope in a tree planting ceremony.
"And each side spoke exclusively about their own suffering."
Prof. Mohammed Dejani, founder and director of the American Studies Institute at Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem and founder of Wasatia, a new organization for the promotion of peace, said that "extremists have taken power on both [the Israeli and Palestinian] sides."
"Religion should lead politics, not the other way around," Dejani said. "The Pope should take the initiative in this endeavor."
Dr. Deborah Weissman, co-chairwoman of the Inter-Religious Coordination Council, said she hoped the Benedict's "ambivalence" on theological issues affecting Jews would be clarified.
The Pope still had not made it absolutely clear that Jews did not need to embrace the belief that Jesus was the messiah to be redeemed
, she said. [Dear God, are we goiong to be hearing more of these absurd demands - each and every group with a vested interest appears to be interested only in exploiting the Pope's visit to their own ends!]
"Recently there have been certain errors in judgment made by the Vatican regarding the Jewish people," Weissman said, apparently referring to the Pope's attempt to heal a schism in the Catholic Church by readmitting four renegade bishops in January. The four had broken with the Church over the Vatican II reforms. One of them, Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier.
Weissman said she understood the tensions within the Church but added that she expected to hear a clear message from Benedict.
100 rabbis prepare to welcome
Pope Benedict XVI to Holy Land
JERUSALEM, APRIL 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- More than a hundred rabbis of various denominations will sign a message welcoming Benedict XVI to the Holy Land and encouraging dialogue between Jews and Christians.
The presidents of the International Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Education, Adalberta and Armando Bernardini, told ZENIT that the message is due to be published on the Web site of an Israeli newspaper Haaretz
The initiative is being promoted by one of the foundation's members, Rabbi Jack Bemporard, also director of the New Jersey based Center for Interreligious Understanding.
From May 8 to 15 the Pope will visit the Holy Land, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, in a visit described by the government of Israel as a "bridge for peace."
The Rabbi message, titled "United in Our Age," is inspired by Nostra Aetate
, the statement that the Second Vatican Council issued on October 28, 1965, which motivated closer relations between Jews and Catholics.
In particular, the message cites the document that states: "Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues."
Addressing the Pontiff, the message affirms: "In this spirit, we -- rabbis and Jewish leaders -- warmly welcome you and your mission of peace to Israel.
"With one voice, we are united in our commitment to interreligious dialogue, to opening more paths to increased understanding, and to continually recognize and strengthen the important relationship between Catholics and Jews worldwide."
"And where better to reaffirm that relationship," it adds, "than in the Holy Land of Israel, a place both religions treasure as part of a shared heritage."
The message concludes: "B'shalom."
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/8/2009 9:35 AM]