MONDAY     March 27, 2000    vol. 11, no. 61    SECTION ONE

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SECTION ONE Contents: Go immediately to the article:
  • JOHN PAUL II's "JUBILEE JOURNEY" - Day SEVEN - The Final Day in the Holy Land
  • THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS - Sunday's Homily from the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre

  • Holy Father completes historic "Jubilee Journey" with a call for unity in the Holy City among the three major monotheistic religions

    The Pope fulfills lifelong Jubilee dream of retracing the footsteps of Jesus in search of Salvation History - from Abraham to the Apostles

       Holy Father concluded his historic, emotional and memorable "Jubilee Journey" by meeting with the Grand Mufti near the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem at the Dome of the Rock, then visit the Western Wall of Jerusalem, also known as the "Wailing Wall" where he prayed with Orthodox Jews and placed a paper in a crack of the wall which called for forgiveness by Christians and a call to reconciliation between followers of Christ and Abraham's children of the Covenant. He then venerated the tomb where Our Lord was lain, placing his palms down flat on the slab in deep prayer. He then made a short visit to the area where Christ was crucified on Golgatha within the same edifice before celebrating Mass in the cavernous Church of the Holy Sepulchre where he also gave his Sunday Angelus address after Mass. His last official act in the Holy Land was to meet with Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah and other bishops and patriarchs before taxing by helicopter from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv where he waved affectionately to all on the tarmac and bid Israel and the Holy Land adieu as he boarded his plane for his return trip to Rome and a few days of much earned rest after his most grueling, and one of the most rewarding of his long and glorious pontificate. For accounts of these and other events during the Holy Father's first day in the Holy Land provided by ZENIT and CWN News, see JOHN PAUL II's "JUBILEE JOURNEY" - DAY SEVEN

    Two Key Events for Promotion of Inter-Religious Dialogue

        JERUSALEM, MAR 26 ( "Peace" was the first word John Paul II spoke when he arrived in Amman, Jordan, on March 20, and this was the clear message he gave on the last day of his stay in Jerusalem.

    Meeting with Grand Mufti

        The Pope's public appointments began with a courtesy visit to the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Akram Sabri, in Mosque Square, a plaza where the worship of Christians, Jews and Muslims comes together, as it is linked to Abraham and Isaac, the Jerusalem Temple, and Christ's prophecy of its destruction. For Muslims, this is the third most sacred place, after Mecca and Medina. There are two imposing mosques in this area: Al-Aqsa and Omar, the old church of the Knights Templar, housing the rock from which, according to Islamic tradition, Mohammed went up to Heaven.

        The meeting was preceded by last week's controversial statements by the Grand Mufti, who did not attend the assembly of religious leaders with the Pope on Thursday, because he did not want to shake hands with Israel's Chief Rabbi. The Muslim leader also criticized the Holy Father for asking the Jewish people for forgiveness when he visited the Memorial to the Holocaust. According to the Mufti, by exaggerating the proportions of the Shoah, "the Jewish people has found a formidable way to muster the solidarity of the world."

        During the meeting with the Mufti, a Palestinian leader referred to the sufferings of his people. John Paul II confirmed Jerusalem's sacred character, common patrimony of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and of the whole of humanity. He referred to Psalm 122, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!"

    At the "Wailing Wall"

        The second stage of the Pope's last day in Jerusalem was his visit to the "Wailing Wall," built by Herod to enclose the Temple's courtyard. It is the Jewish sacred place par excellence; here they pray and weep in memory of the ancient splendor of Jerusalem and the Temple, once the center of all Jewish life, definitively destroyed by the Romans. They place small votive messages in the crevices of the slabs of stone.

        John Paul II also came to place his bit of paper. It was the prayer he read in Rome on March 12 praying for forgiveness for the sufferings caused to Jews by the Church's children. This petition for forgiveness is also a commitment to genuine fraternity with the people of the Covenant. It was a very emotional moment: the Pontiff walked up to the Wall alone and prayed there for a few moments before placing the piece of paper in one of the crevices. He then placed his right hand on the Wall, before blessing himself.

        These were two symbolic moments of that peace that the Pope came to foster with his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and that this very day was passing through a decisive phase with the meeting between U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

        Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls disclosed that the Vatican has appealed to the Israeli authorities to re-examine the question of the Nazareth mosque. An Islamic fundamentalist group plans to construct a mosque in the Square of the Basilica of the Annunciation, one of the places most visited by Christian pilgrims. The Israeli government has supported this plan, in spite of the fact that the Islamic fundamentalists invaded the land by force and, on several occasions, attacked Christians after important Masses. According to the Vatican, the mosque does not respond to a felt need of the Islamic community, which has other mosques in the area, but, rather, is a provocation (local Catholics describe it as a threat) against Christian pilgrims. ZE00032606

    Holy Father Moved When Celebrating Mass in Place of Jesus' Tomb

        JERUSALEM, MAR 26 ( John Paul II finished his pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his visit to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, built in the place where, according to tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. For 2000 years this place has given witness to the event that gives the reason for being a Christian and which the Pontiff wished to venerate, first with a profound prayer by the Lord' empty tomb, and then with the celebration of the Eucharist.

        John Paul II entered the Basilica accompanied by the 3 Patriarchs and the leaders of other Christian Churches. The procession was led by macebearers who announced their entrance by loud thumping on the ground. The friars' singing and the pealing bells added to the solemnity of the occasion.

        In the atrium, at the foot of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, the Pope knelt to kiss the Rock of the Anointing. Overwhelmed, he then knelt before the sarcophagus of the Holy Sepulcher, kissed the stone and stayed for a long moment in prayer, contemplating the central mystery of the Christian faith. "For almost 2000 years the empty tomb has borne witness to the victory of Life over death. The tomb is empty. It is a silent witness to the central event of human history," the Holy Father said.

        From this Church, which St. John Damascene called the Mother of all Churches, the Pontiff recalled that Jesus' resurrection is the definitive seal of all God's promises and the place of birth of a new and resurrected humanity. "At the dawn of the new millennium, Christians can and must look to the future with steadfast trust in the glorious power of the Risen One to make all things new. He is the One who frees all creation from its bondage to futility. By his Resurrection he opens the way to the great Sabbath rest, the Eighth day, when mankind 's pilgrimage will come to its end and God will be all in all."

        From the Holy Sepulcher, John Paul II repeated those words of Jesus that have become his motto, "Do not be afraid, I have overcome the world!" and he invited all Christians to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth. "Jesus Christ is risen! he is truly risen!"

        At the end of the celebration, the hour of the Angelus, John Paul II joined Mary, Jesus' Mother, at the foot of the cross, to weep with her for the sorrow of Jerusalem and the sins of the world, thus renewing his prayer for forgiveness: "Realizing the terrible consequences of sin, we are moved to repentance for our own sins and for the sins of the Church's children in every age." ZE00032607

    Proposal Made to Israel's Parliament

        TEL AVIV, MAR 26 ( Among the Jews who have closely followed John Paul II's visit to Israel is Eliahu Wajcer, an engineer from Beer Sheba in Negev, and a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, who in a letter written a few days ago (enclosing photocopies of an old magazine) requested Avraham Burg, president of the Israeli Parliament to proclaim Karol Wojtyla "Just Among the Nations," the highest recognition given by Israel to those who did everything possible to rescue Jews from extermination.

        In his letter, Wajcer wrote that "John Paul II has done more than anyone to reconcile the Church with the Jewish people." He adds, "To offer the recognition of 'Just' would enable the opening of a new page in the history between Jews and Christians."

        Up to this time, neither the president of the Parliament nor the Yad Va-Shem Memorial to the Holocaust have commented on the initiative. The proclamation of "Just" requires thorough historical research, direct testimony, and months of work, much like the Church's canonization process.

        Wajcer, who was a fellow-inmate with writer Elie Wiesel and of Israel Meir Lau, the current Grand Rabbi of the Ashkenazim of Israel, at Buchenwald concentration camp, continues to be interested in Polish culture. Therefore, he often goes to the library to page through magazines of contemporary history, among which is "Zank," a publication produced in Warsaw.

        "In the May-June, 1988, issue, writer Stanislav Krajewski described in detail a story about Karol Wojtyla," Wajcer explained. This is information that is not new, but that is not widely known in Israel.

        Wajcer takes up the case of a Krakow Jewish couple who in 1942, feeling endangered by the anti-Semitic persecutions, entrusted their 2-year old child to Catholic friends. At the end of the war, it was proved that the child's natural parents had died. Meanwhile, the Catholic friends had become very attached to the child and wished to baptize him. They asked the advice of Fr. Karol Wojtyla who counseled them, to their surprise, that if the natural parents wanted their son raised in the Jewish faith, that is what should happen.

        The couple made all kinds of difficult research to find other relatives of the child. Finally, they located relatives in the United States who agreed to receive him. "That child became an orthodox Jew," Wajcer said. According to the engineer, this gesture of Wojtyla's surprised Polish Rabbi Israel Spira, known as "the just of Lubishev." "God has mysterious ways to reveal his will," Rabbi Spira explained to his students in commenting on Wojtyla's example. "To save a soul in Israel is tantamount to saving the whole world. This priest is worthy of becoming a Pope."

        What the future Pope told the family who wanted to baptize the Jewish child was really nothing new. It is what the Catholic Church has taught throughout history, although it has not always been applied by the Church's children. At the Council of Toledo it was affirmed that until a Jewish child reached the use of reason, he could not be baptized against his parents' will, even if they had died. This teaching was set forth systematically by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae, Part III, Question 68, Article 10. ZE00032608

    Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian Authority

        RAMALA, MAR 26 ( After the past week, negotiations for peace in the Middle East can count on a new point of consensus: the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority agree that the Pope's visit to the Holy Land was "historic" and it has given decisive impulse to the peace process.

    Position of Israeli Government

        On Friday afternoon, John Paul II met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who stated that the Pope's visit to Israel has "immense historical importance." "It is the greatest step taken for the reconciliation between Jews and Muslims," he said.

        The meeting, which lasted just over a quarter of an hour, took place by the Sea of Galilee, near the Church of the Beatitudes. At the end, Barak said that during his meeting with John Paul II, they exchanged impressions on some humanitarian aspects of the ongoing peace process between Israel and Palestinians and Syrians.

        "The Pope brought a very uplifting message of peace, tolerance and compassion, not only among human beings, but also among nations," Barak said. The Israeli Prime Minister and the Pope had met the previous day during a very moving ceremony in Yad Vashem Memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

        The speed of the meeting was due, in part, to the imminent beginning of Sabbath, the day of obligatory rest imposed by Jewish tradition, which begins at sunset on Friday. On this day, the Israeli government does not take part in any official ceremonies, Barak explained to the Holy Father.

    Palestinian Position

        During a meeting on the night of March 24-25, the Board of Directors of the Palestinian Authority stated that John Paul II's pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Palestinian territories was an "historic visit."

        "We very much appreciate the Pope's historical visit and the positions he expressed in Bethlehem and in the Dheicheh [refugee] camp," the Palestine Board said, in a statement published after the meeting.

        This organization, which governs the autonomous Palestinian territories, pointed out that the Pope "supported the just cause and rights of the Palestinian people at the international level."

        In addition, it is grateful for his "support of the refugees and for stressing the need to implement international resolutions relating to the Palestinian people."

        On March 22, John Paul II visited Bethlehem, the city of Christ's birth, and the Dheicheh refugee camp near that city. In Bethlehem the Holy Father said that the Holy See has always "recognized the Palestinian people's natural right to a homeland." ZE00032601

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    Pope speaks out from the source site of Salvation on the day he visits the three most sacred sites of the three major religions

       Today we bring you the Holy Father's final homily in the Holy Land, his Sunday sermon yesterday in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre where spoke of the articles of the Catholic Faith as outlined in the Apostles' Creed, calling to mind that the path of salvation leads to the Cross, before the Glory of Heaven can be revealed. Also today we bring you his Angelus message imparted after the Mass from the same place wherein the Pope relates with Mary, the Mother of God - Theotokos - and calls on her to be with her children. The Holy Father's words echoe the strong spiritual graces received by his "Jubilee Journey" for the sake of all the Church, and recall to us, in the season of Lent, that the sorrows of this life are given light only through Christ and through His Holy Mother Mary, Mother of Sorrows, but now Queen of Angels and Saints. See THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS


          "I believe in Jesus Christ ... conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried... On the third day he rose again"

      1. Following the path of salvation history, as narrated in the Apostles' Creed, my Jubilee Pilgrimage has brought me to the Holy Land. From Nazareth, where Jesus was conceived of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, I have reached Jerusalem, where He "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried." Here, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I kneel before the place of His burial: "Behold, the place where they laid Him" (Mark 16:6).

          The tomb is empty. It is a silent witness to the central event of human history: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For almost two thousand years the empty tomb has borne witness to the victory of Life over death. With the Apostles and Evangelists, with the Church of every time and place, we too bear witness and proclaim: "Christ is risen! Raised from the dead He will never die again; death no longer has power over Him" (cf. Rom 6:9). "Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando; dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus" (Latin Easter Sequence Victimae Paschali). The Lord of Life was dead; now He reigns, victorious over death, the source of everlasting life for all who believe.

      2. In this, "the Mother of all Churches" (St. John Damascene), I extend warm greetings to His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Ordinaries of the other Catholic Communities, Father Giovanni Battistelli and the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, as well as the clergy, religious and lay faithful.

          With fraternal esteem and affection I greet Patriarch Diodoros of the Greek Orthodox Church and Patriarch Torkom of the Armenian Orthodox Church, the representatives of the Coptic, Syrian and Ethiopian Churches, as well as of the Anglican and Lutheran Communities.

          Here, where our Lord Jesus Christ died in order to gather into one the children of God who were scattered (John 11:52), may the Father of mercies strengthen our desire for unity and peace among all who have received the gift of new life through the saving waters of Baptism.

      3. "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). The Evangelist John tells us that, after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples remembered these words, and they believed (cf. John 2:22). Jesus had spoken these words that they might be a sign for His disciples. When He and the disciples visited the Temple, He expelled the money-changers and vendors from the holy place (cf. John 2:15). When those present protested, saying: "What sign have you to show us for doing this?", Jesus replied: 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.'" The Evangelist observes that He "was speaking of the temple of His body" (John 2:18-21).

          The prophecy contained in Jesus' words was fulfilled at Easter, when "on the third day He rose from the dead". The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the sign that the Eternal Father is faithful to His promise and brings new life out of death: "the resurrection of the body and life everlasting." The mystery is clearly reflected in this ancient Church of the Anástasis, which contains both the empty tomb ­ the sign of the Resurrection, and Golgotha ­ the place of the Crucifixion. The good news of the Resurrection can never be separated from the mystery of the Cross. Saint Paul tells us this in today's Second Reading: "We preach Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Christ, Who offered Himself as an evening sacrifice on the altar of the Cross (cf. Ps 141:2), has now been revealed as "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). And in His Resurrection, the sons and daughters of Adam have been made sharers in the divine life which was His from all eternity, with the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

      4. "I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2).

          Today's Lenten Liturgy sets before us the Covenant which God made with His people on Mount Sinai, when He gave the Ten Commandments of the Law to Moses. Sinai represents the second stage of that great pilgrimage of faith which began when God said to Abraham: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1).

          The Law and the Covenant are the seal of the promise made to Abraham. Through the Decalogue and the moral law inscribed on the human heart (cf. Rom 2:15), God radically challenges the freedom of every man and woman. To respond to God's voice resounding in the depths of our conscience and to choose good is the most sublime use of human freedom. It is, in a real sense, to make the choice between life and death (cf. Dt 30:15). By walking the path of the Covenant with the All-Holy God the people became bearers and witnesses of the promise, the promise of genuine liberation and fullness of life.

          The Resurrection of Jesus is the definitive seal of all God's promises, the birth-place of a new, risen humanity, the pledge of a history marked by the Messianic gifts of peace and spiritual joy. At the dawn of a new millennium, Christians can and ought to look to the future with steadfast trust in the glorious power of the Risen One to make all things new (cf. Rev 21:5). He is the One Who frees all creation from its bondage to futility (cf. Rom 8:20). By His Resurrection He opens the way to the great Sabbath rest, the Eighth Day, when mankind's pilgrimage will come to its end and God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).

          Here at the Holy Sepulchre and Golgotha, as we renew our profession of faith in the Risen Lord, can we doubt that in the power of the Spirit of Life we will be given the strength to overcome our divisions and to work together to build a future of reconciliation, unity and peace? Here, as in no other place on earth, we hear the Lord say once again to His disciples: "Do not fear; I have overcome the world!" (cf. Jn 16:33).

      5. "Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando; dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus." Radiant with the glory of the Spirit, the Risen Lord is the Head of the Church, His Mystical Body. He sustains her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the men and women of every generation, until He returns in glory!

          From this place, where the Resurrection was first made known to the women and then to the Apostles, I urge all the Church's members to renew their obedience to the Lord's command to take the Gospel to all the ends of the earth. At the dawn of a new Millennium, there is a great need to proclaim from the rooftops the Good News that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

          "Lord, You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Today, as the unworthy Successor of Peter, I wish to repeat these words as we celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in this, the most hallowed place on earth. With all of redeemed humanity, I make my own the words which Peter the Fisherman spoke to the Christ, the Son of the living God: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

          Christós anésti.

          Jesus Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Amen.

    For Holy Father's Angelus yesterday, see SECTION TWO

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    March 27, 2000     volume 11, no. 61
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