March 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 53
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Israel Confirms Trip Will Promote Jewish-Christian Relations

    ROME/JERUSALEM, MAR 14 ( The imminent Papal visit to the Holy Land is important to Israel, even though its motives are entirely spritual, according to an adviser to the Israeli Embassy to the Vatican. Even as politicians speak of the benefits to the peace process or to relations between Christians and Jews, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah is working to move attention back to the real meaning of the visit.

    Following his "spiritual" pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace, and after walking in Moses' footsteps in Mount Sinai, Egypt, John Paul II will journey once again, this time to the Promised Land, from March 20-26.

    Perhaps this is the most significant trip of the 90 the Holy Father has undertaken since the beginning of his pontificate. Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem are places where the Church's roots sink deeply. From here Peter, the Galilean fisherman, left with the Gospel on his lips and in his heart. After 2000 years of Christianity, his successor, John Paul II, returns to this land to announce to the world the perennial presence of Christ in his Church.

    The Papal pilgrimage is also very important for Israel, as Zvi Tal confirmed over Vatican Radio. Zvi Tal is an adviser at the Israeli Embassy to the Vatican. "Clearly, it is a very significant trip, also for the State of Israel. We are facing a very important stage of the inter-religious dialogue, and we are certain that this trip can contribute to promote this dialogue. We are also facing a decisive moment in the framework of the peace process, and the Holy Father has always encouraged and blessed this process."

    As regards Israelis' expectations, the diplomat said that "the majority of the Israeli people have great respect for this Pope, who has always made an important contribution in opposing anti-Semitism, which he defined as 'a sin against religion.' For this reason, I think a very important moment of this pilgrimage will be the visit to Yad-Vashem, the museum built in Jerusalem in memory of the Holocaust."

    The apostolic pilgrimage includes some of the principal stages of the history of salvation: Mount Nebo, from which, according to tradition, Moses contemplated the Promised Land before his death; the River Jordan, which is the step to the Promised Land of the people of the Covenant and a symbol of the step to a new life on the part of those baptized. Here is where Jesus began his public life, which took him to Galilee and Jerusalem. Christian tradition has called these stages "Holy Places," as they are connected to the history of God's Revelation to all men. Just like the early Christian pilgrims, the Pope is going to these places during the Jubilee Year, to celebrate the coming of Christ among men, and his Resurrection.

    This was, in fact, the main topic at the press conference held today in Jerusalem by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of the Holy City. "Within a few days, we will welcome the Holy Father and, together with the community of believers, which has lived uninterruptedly from the beginning of Christianity around the Holy Places and maintains in them the memory of the divine mystery of salvation, he will carry out his pilgrimage, pray and confirm the local and universal Church in its spiritual renewal on the occasion of the Great Jubilee," he said.

    There were a great many reporters at the press conference from all over the world. Disappointing those who asked questions of a political order about the Pope's meetings with the heads of State of Israel and the Palestine Authority, the Patriarch insisted on the spiritual nature of the pilgrimage. "The Pope will bring everyone an up-to-date message of love and peace. We hope the political leaders will hear him and, with greater courage, establish justice and peace in this land and in the whole region."

    The hope of His Beatitude Michel Sabbah is that this pontifical trip "will be the beginning of new times in which Jerusalem will become what God wills, a city of prayer and peace in which all believers meet to construct peace in this region and the world." ZE00031407


March 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 53

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