PAPAL TRIP TO HOLY LAND OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Explains Purpose of Pilgrimage
In Jordan, the Pope will visit Mount Nebo Monastery, from where Moses saw the Promised Land, without the joy of touching it, but with the certainty of having arrived at its doors. The Holy Father will celebrate Mass in the Amman Stadium.
Then His Holiness will preside over the celebration of the Eucharist in Bethlehem, the Cenacle of the Last Supper (in Jerusalem), the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and the Holy Sepulcher (in Jerusalem), accompanied by members of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. John Paul II will hold an ecumenical meeting with heads of Christian Churches in the land of Jesus' birth.
John Paul will visit the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall, as well as Islam's third holiest site, the Al Aqsa mosque. Palestinian officials said he also will stop at a Palestinian refugee camp.
His Holiness will also meet the King of Jordan, the President and Prime Minister of Israel, and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
Non-Political, Spiritual PilgrimageIn making this announcement at a press conference in Jerusalem, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah emphasized the religious and spiritual nature of the event. This is the second time a Pope has visited the Holy Land; the first was Paul VI in 1964. In answer to questions from reporters, the Patriarch said there were many differences between the first papal pilgrimage and the one Pope Wojtyla will undertake. In 1964 Jordan exercised sovereignty over Jerusalem and the West Bank territories.
The question of Pope's security is laden with political connotations, especially in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967, a move that is not recognized by the Vatican or by many other countries. The Patriarch explained that "This problem will be resolved by those responsible for security in virtue of the de facto situation -- not the law."
Another reporters insisted on the possibility of political expectations. "No," Patriarch Sabbah replied. The "expectations of the Pope's trip are of a spiritual, religious, and human nature."
The reporters pressed for the reason why the Holy Father will visit the major Palestinian and Israeli political representatives. This relates to the "message of peace in justice and in reconciliation," Patriarch Sabbah responded.
Finally the reporters addressed the construction of a Mosque in Nazareth, overshadowing the Basilica of the Annunciation. The Patriarch replied that "the search for a solution to this controversy is making headway and has nothing to do with His Holiness' visit."
ReconciliationIn his addresses and homilies while in the Holy Land, John Paul II will emphasize the spiritual dimension of life. "His won't be a political voice but a prophetic one," Sabbah said later over Vatican Radio, "an invitation to seek the truth that affects all human beings who live in the Holy Land, independently of their religious differences. It is a voice of the spirit, of which politicians are also in need. In this way, the political negotiations will receive an impetus to apply greater justice and truth that should end in real reconciliation."
In Jordan, the King himself announced the Pope's visit; in Jerusalem, the Israeli government, which promised the trip would have "the highest degree of grandeur, distinction and security, as befitting a dignitary of this stature"; and in Bethlehem, the Palestinian Authority, which called the visit "a blessing for the Palestinian people." ZE00011204
January 13, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 9
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