00 5/17/2009 12:31 AM

I will be posting new items regarding the Pope's recent Holy Land pilgrimage on this thread first and wil cross-post in the PILGRIMAGE thread, which I will continue to build with all the photos, stories adn commentaries I was unable to post during the trip itself.

Most Israelis seem to agree that the pope's just concluded trip to Israel wasn't a raving success. Far from healing wounds, his address at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum garnered harsh criticism for failing to adequately address the horrors memorialized there.

I see the visit in a much more positive light.

Jewish-Christian relations have always been of a wary sort, laced with mutual suspicions that have deep theological roots, and with painful memories of persecution and anti-Semitism. But in the past half-century, the church's attitude toward Jews has undergone a fundamental shift.

Nostra Aetate -- the Declaration on the Relations of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, issued by the Second Vatican Council and published in 1965 -- was the harbinger of the change in Catholic attitude toward the Jews and their faith. Later, Pope John Paul II further advanced the process of reconciliation.

Karol Wojtyla had been a fighter in the Underground against the Nazi regime and had many close Jewish childhood friends. Deeply aware of the horrors that befell the Jews during World War II, Pope John Paul's personal sympathy for and close acquaintance with the Jewish people led to an era of fruitful dialogue and rapprochement between Jews and Catholics.

This healing was made possible mainly because the pope, together with Jewish leaders, focused on shared values, biblical traditions and moral principles common to both faith communities.

Pope Benedict XVI does not yet enjoy the goodwill his predecessor generated. Aspects of his past and statements he has made are arguably controversial and have generated criticism -- some valid -- from Jews.

But this week, he arrived in Israel for the first papal visit in nine years. I was part of a delegation that greeted him in a special ceremony at the airport. Sadly, a number of Israeli political and religious leaders refused to participate.

Had they attended, they would have heard the head of the Church speak of the terrible suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, their biblical rights to the land of Israel, and the deep bonds between the Christian and Jewish faiths.

Had they joined him on his journey, they would have heard him lash out against Holocaust denial, condemn anti-Semitism -- past and present -- and seen him pray at the Western Wall.

They would have witnessed him meeting with rabbis, political leaders and even the parents of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held hostage in Gaza. These are just a few of the acts of solidarity and gestures of reconciliation the critics would have witnessed during the Pope's pilgrimage.

Of course, the Pope is not above reproach. But there is no question that this Pope deeply respects Judaism and stands solidly for the security of the state of Israel.

As someone who has dedicated the past 35 years to fostering respect between Jews and Christians, I was deeply encouraged by the Pope's visit and believe that it has contributed significantly toward supplanting the dark and violent history between Jews and the church.

The world desperately needs this model of reconciliation. I pray that it extends to our Muslim cousins too, so that all the children of Abraham might find peace with one another.

Rabbi Eckstein is founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Probably the best and most refreshing item I have read so far that captures the essence of the Pope's pilgirmage for peace and sees it from the right perspective - by a contributing writer to First Things Magazine and the blogger known as The Anchoress. Yoo bad it's not in the mainstream press.
Pajamas Media - pajamasmedia.com/
started out in 2005 as an affiliation of the 90 most influential blogs and has nwo evolved into a 24/7 news and commentary network.

Pope brings his gentle touch
to the Holy Land

Benedict pushed aside entangled, energy-sapping emotionalism
to propose a reinvestment in our shared humanity.

by Elizabeth Scalia

May 16, 2009

Israel’s unending struggle is written into her very name, Isra-El: “struggles with God.”

Since its formation in 1948, the world has watched the tumult of the modern state of Israel and one thing remains unclear: is the “struggle” between Israel herself and God, or between Israel and the world, with God beside her?

Either way, that Israel will always struggle should by now be understood, whether viewed through the lenses of history or scripture.

Pope Benedict XVI has been traveling about the Holy Land as a “pilgrim of peace” and each step — whether in Jerusalem or Bethlehem or Nazareth — has been a necessarily careful one, as though the built-up sludge of incessant struggle may hide a stumbling block.

The squabbling children of Abraham who populate this land cry out for just resolutions to their conflicts, then wearily reject them all. Like nesting birds nicking shiny things, they grab at anything that offers a gleam of support for their staked claim and reject what does not shine their way.

Thus, at an “inter-religious dialogue” the Pontiff’s call for mutual understanding inspired a Jew-hating diatribe by Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi and the Pope’s encouragement at Yad Vashem was taken, by some, for coldness.

Pope John Paul II was a dramatic pipe organ of a man; with a chord he could shake a crowd and bring it to its knees. When he spoke at Yad Vashem in 2000 his remarks were emotional and Israel’s wail, ever-present its heaving bosom of struggle, found some release in them.

By comparison, Pope Benedict XVI is a cerebral piano; he builds a thoughtful piece, note by note, and trusts that the listener will follow along:

I have come to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honor the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names: these are indelibly etched. … Their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God.

Eschewing emotionalism for pragmatism, Benedict’s less empathetic remarks met mixed reviews. Some Jews, looking for a personal balm, complained that they’d “missed the tone of shared grief.”

Others said empathy-seeking “missed the point,” that the Pope was redirecting attention away from past horrors, in order to focus on present dangers in the rising of a “new” global anti-Semitism.

A reading of all of Benedict’s remarks throughout this pilgrimage suggests that he is doing more; he is pushing aside entangled, energy-sapping emotionalism to propose a reinvestment in our shared humanity.

This last great man of the 20th century lived through Nazism and statism and he understands the societal weaknesses that spawned them. His speeches in the Holy Land are of a piece, meant to paint the “big picture.”

Yes, Israel has enemies who would push all Jews into the sea, and yes, Palestinians must have a homeland if they are to have any hope, and yes, both of these truths are tragically complex.

But any solutions, suggests Benedict, will have to be built upon the foundation of “our common belief in one God, the Father of the human family.”

This seems a simplistic response to ancient wounds and rivalries, where grudges are long and trust has been shattered, but Benedict knows that a strengthened family can be a bulwark against encroaching evil and the abode of healing and grace. A healthy family knows no “stalemate of fear.”

In Nazareth, he said:

In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end. Here we begin to glimpse … the essential role of the family as the first building block of a well-ordered and welcoming society. …

Let us reaffirm here our commitment to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us. … Let everyone reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice, which kills men’s souls before it kills their bodies!

Emotions have their place, but at Nazareth, something good comes as Benedict speaks the truth: nothing will change until the squabbling children of Abraham can remember that they are family, first.

Not anonymous “others,” but children of one Almighty Parent who loved them equally into being and who knows them “by name.”

And if their name is Israel, this Parent has promised, they will not struggle alone.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/19/2009 6:23 AM]