March 14, 2000
volume 11, no. 52
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Archbishop of Krakow Recounted Moving Moments of Trip to his Priests

    VATICAN CITY, MAR (ZENIT.org).- The profound emotion experienced in the place where Christ was imprisoned and scourged, in the Cenacle, where he instituted the Eucharist, and the little streets of Capernaum, or the rough beauty of Qumran, was recorded in Archbishop Karol Wojtyla's diary of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land with other bishops in December, 1963, during a pause in Vatican Council II.

    On the eve of John Paul II's trip to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, after close to 47 years, the general curia of the Franciscans, who are custodians of the Holy Land, has decided to make known those pages the Polish Archbishop wrote to the priests of Krakow to share with them his exceptional experience. The text is dated January 10, 1964, although the pilgrimage took place several days before, at the end of 1963, at a very difficult time in Poland's history. Paul VI had named him Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow on December 30, 1963. He was 43. Therefore, this was one of the first messages the new Archbishop of Krakow gave his presbytery.

    "I have participated in this pilgrimage not as something personal, but as a grace given to me by Providence to transmit to others." Therefore, in order to share with others the fruits of the pilgrimage, Bishop Karol Wojtyla wrote a diary. It begins with the view from the airplane of the Egyptian desert, the shores of the Red Sea, the Sinai mountains, and landscapes he contemplated again last month during his journey in Moses' footsteps.

    When approaching Jerusalem, the plane flew over the Moab mountains and Mount Nebo, from which Moses viewed the Promised Land, knowing he would never enter it. This territory is in Jordan, which will be the first stage of the Pope's trip from March 20-26, 2000.

    The chronicle of his pilgrimage continues with stopovers on land, which Wojtyla describes in great detail, including at the logistical level, indicating the distance from Nazareth (where "a modern church is being built thanks to contributions from Catholics worldwide") to Ain Karen, where Elizabeth and Zachariah lived, and where Mary spent three months with her cousin.

    The young Archbishop also noted the divisions that existed in the management of the sacred places, which usually surprise pilgrims arriving in the Holy Land. Between December 8-9, the Archbishop of Krakow and his pilgrim companions offered Mass and held a Vigil, beginning at midnight until 5:30 a.m. of the following day, at which moment the Polish group had to move on so that Greek Orthodox priests, who are custodians of this shrine, could celebrate their morning Mass. Wojtyla wrote, "the altar that is a memorial to the place of Jesus' birth belongs to" the Orthodox, "while the altar next door, which is where the crib was, belongs to the Catholics."

    The topic of the division of the Christian confessions appears again when he visited the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. "We came out of the Basilica moved. The fact that the internal and external walls are covered with scaffolding does not rob them of force. The coexistence of confessions, the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox and Armenians, who celebrate their religious functions, "is not offensive at first sight, although one knows that behind this is hidden the fact of the split of Christianity, so contrary to Jesus'' wish."

    The Pope, who in a few days will return for the second time in his life to Jerusalem and the places in which the presence of God changed the history of mankind forever, has indicated that an objective of the Church for the third millennium is the reconstruction of unity among Christians. Undoubtedly, he will recall the thoughts and emotions he experienced in the Holy Land when he was a young Archbishop at the end of 1963. ZE00031008


March 14, 2000
volume 11, no. 52

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