- 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 initiative -- titled "United in Our Age" -- is being promoted by Rabbi Jack Bemporard, also director of the New Jersey based Center for Interreligious Understanding, and is based on Vatican II's Nostra Aetate. It will be published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. (Zenit News, April 30, 2009).
- Jerusalem Post reports that Pope Benedict XVI and President Shimon Peres will plant an olive tree in a stretch of ground on the Beit Hanassi complex that has been designated as a peace garden, thus inaugurating a new tradition to be followed by all world leaders visiting Beit Hanassi in the future, "so that world peace will symbolically take root."
The article provides further details on the Pope's meeting with Israel's President, noting that despite attempts to politicize the visit, "Benedict XVI is coming to the Holy Land under the banner of peace with goodwill toward all faiths and all nations":
Aside from a gala red carpet welcome, the pope will be greeted by some 800 people, including Voices of Peace, a 50-member children's choir of Jewish, Christian and Muslim singers from Jaffa; righteous gentiles living in Israel; Holocaust survivors; bereaved families; representatives of the Negev and the Galilee; Nobel Prize laureates; leading academics; leaders of Jerusalem's three major faiths; and various dignitaries.
Special prayers for peace will be recited by Jewish, Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders.
Peres and the pope will have a working meeting and will address the gathering before leaving for Yad Vashem.
- Haaretz reports that The Israeli Postal Authority is launching a special stamp series in honor of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit next month, featuring churches across the country.
- Ron Kronish of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel believes "This is not a time to focus on the problematics of the relationship between Israel and the Vatican. There will be other occasions for that." Rather, we should join with the Pope -- who will spend his first day in Jerusalem at a convocation and reception paying tribute to organizations engaged in interreligious dialogue for peace.
According to Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel:
ccording to the papal representative in Israel, Antonio Franco, “This special event will be held in Jerusalem because we strongly believe that there should be respect and cooperation among people of different religions in order to help reach peace in the region.”
- Yad L'Achim, a haredi anti-missionary organization, has demanded that the Pope help find thousands of European Jews who, as young children, were rescued from the Holocaust by Catholic clergy and laymen and were never told of their Jewish origins.
Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee's Department for Interreligious Affairs, is sympathetic to the request but not the timing:
"It is more appropriate to meet with the local archdioceses and attempt to track [them] down on a local level," said Rosen. "It is a bit sensationalist to turn to the pope."
- Finally, in an update to our prior story, Israel National News reports today on the latest round of meetings between Israel and the Vatican negotiating fiscal and property matters -- with no apparent resolution in sight:
Nothing was signed, and another meeting was scheduled for Dec. 10 at the Vatican.
Asked if the question of control over the Last Supper room, in the building housing King David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, is close to being resolved, a Foreign Ministry delegate to the meeting answered in the negative.
Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, Head of the World Jewish Affairs and Interreligious Affairs Department at Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, told Israel National News, “The question of control over the two rooms above David’s Tomb is something that they raise from time to time, but it is not the subject of these negotiations, nor has Israel shown any signs of ceding its full sovereignty over these areas.”