Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pope Benedict in Israel & the Holy Land - General Roundup

Some fascinating commentary on Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to Israel that you may have missed:
  • Pope sees Holy Land’s great divide, by Julian Rake:
    Pope Benedict has crossed through the imposing concrete wall that separates the West Bank town of Bethlehem from Israel to visit the town of Jesus’ birth. The wall is part of the nearly 800 km security barrier that Israel is building in and around the West Bank in a series of walls, fences, berms and ditches. He was accompanied to the checkpoint on the Israeli side by Israeli security before driving through the barrier to meet up with his Palestinian security escort.

    Crossing back and forth through the checkpoints that dot what Israelis call the “separation barrier” – and which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the pope was “the apartheid wall” – is a routine part of life for many people here. Yet it can shock newcomers to see this physical manifestation of the conflict in a region that is just a pocket-handkerchief on the map of the world. It is a measure put in place for security (as per the Israelis) or annexation and grabbing of land (as per the Palestinians). One wonders what the Pope was thinking as he crossed through.

    Julian provides some video of the Pope's passage from Israel into Bethlehem.

  • Tom Heneghan notices that, during his visit to the Dome of the Rock on Tuesday, Pope Benedict urged Palestinian Muslim leaders to pursue interfaith cooperation by using an argument that other Muslims have been using to engage Christians — including himself — in dialogue:
    In his speech to Muslim leaders this morning, the pope said reason shows us the shared nature and common destiny of all people. He then said: “Undivided love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbour thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns.” Readers of this blog may recognise that message in a slightly different form — it echoes the “Common Word” appeal by Muslim scholars to a Christian-Muslim dialogue based on the two shared principles of love of God and love of neighbour. Since we’ve reported extensively about that initiative, readers may also remember that the Vatican was initially quite cautious about it. Up until the Catholic-Muslim forum in Rome last November, the line from the Vatican was that Christians and Muslims couldn’t really discuss theology because their views of God were so different. Vatican officials sounded different after three days of talks and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is in charge of interfaith relations, said the Common Word group could even become a “privileged channel” for discussions in future. And now Benedict uses their argument to other Muslims.
    Also, FaithWorld provides video footage of the Pope's visit to the Dome of the Rock.

  • Parsippany developer, Holocaust survivor meets Pope Benedict XVI, by Rob Jennings. The Daily Record profiles Edward Mosberg, a New Jersey developer who, in the words of his lawyer, was "asked if he would be one of six persons representing six million":
    Starting approximately 20 years ago, Mosberg began collecting memorabilia associated with the Holocaust — ranging from shoes, wires, spoons and Torahs that survived the Nazi destruction. In 2006, he presented a nearly 20-year-old Torah that had been hidden in someone’s home to the Mount Freedom Jewish Center.

    Mosberg, a native of Krakow, Poland who now lives in Union, was the only member of his immediate and extended family to survive the Holocaust. His wife, Cecile, lost her mother, two older sister, younger brother and aunts and uncles.

    “He loses his whole family. He’s in any number of camps. He has to participate in any number of work camps. He has to go on marches. He’s kind of had the rainbow of all the horrific experiences you can imagine,” Till said.

  • Scarves speak volumes in pope's Holy Land visit, by John Thavis (Catholic News Service):
    Sometimes a scarf is worth a thousand words.

    Pope Benedict XVI spoke carefully during his Holy Land pilgrimage in May -- so carefully that it occasionally seemed his talks were written by Vatican diplomats.

    But the image and the message people will carry from his visit may have more to do with scarves than speeches. [More]

  • What kind of gift does a pope give when he visits the Holy Land? This morning, the Holy See Press Office distributed a few pictures of presents Pope Benedict has brought along. (Catholic News Service)

  • The Italian daily "Il Foglio" interviews George Weigel on Pope Benedict XVI's journey to the Holy Land. This is amusing:
    IF: Do you think that his words are often manipulated by those who desire to give the impression of great conflict between faiths?

    GW: I think it's more often the case that reporters simply don't have the intellectual equipment to understand, and explain, what the pope is actually saying. Regensburg is a perfect example. Of course, there is a lot that could be improved in Vatican communications.

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