March 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 62
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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.


    JERUSALEM (FIDES/CWNews.com) -- What are the fruits of John Paul II's journey to the Holy Land? The FIDES news service asked Father Frederic Manns, an official spokesman for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and the director of the Franciscan Biblical Study Center in Jerusalem.

FIDES: What is the result of this journey regarding the Jewish world?

FATHER MANNS: We must make a distinction: among the people of Israel. There are Orthodox Jews who refused to have anything to do with the Pope, whereas the intellectuals and political leaders, mostly secular, are very happy with the visit. The happiest of all would appear to be (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Barak. For him it was a triumph and it re-launched relations between the Vatican and Israel. In a way he inherited this from (former Prime Minister) Rabin. Yitzhak Rabin was the first to open to the Vatican. Behind the success of Barak lies the sacrifice of Rabin. This is also the beginning of a new era in relations between Judaism and Christianity in general.

    Then there are the masses. Up to now, not much was known about Christianity. We must hope that there will be a new era for them, too. Now even Israel is saying that history books must be revised.

    Hitherto the facts of the Church or connected with Christianity were misinterpreted or eliminated. For example: regarding the discovery of America by Colombus, in school books no mention is made of the cross planted by the navigator from Genoa; it has been purposely left out in all text books. Now a more objective presentation of Christianity must be given to Jews.

    The press and television gave unprecedented coverage to the visit itself, with programs on the Catholic Church and the Vatican, sparking interest even among the wider public.

FIDES: And the fruits for the Muslims and Palestinians?

MANNS: It was a triumph for (Palestinian President Yasser) Arafat. He was able to be near the Holy Father for a whole day. He reinforced his position as a national authority. The emphasis given to homeland is important because it indicates that the Palestinians have a right to travel the same path as Israel. Of course for the Palestinians there remains the problem of poverty and the economy.

    Among the Muslims there was also an attempt at political manipulation. Muslims fear the drawing near of Jews and Christians. I am afraid that, after the Pope's departure, this will create tensions. Some extremist Muslims in Nazareth said that after the papal visit-- and not in 2001, as they had agreed with the government-- they will start building the mosque under the pretext that the Christians have betrayed the Palestinians. [The reference is to plans by a group of Muslim activists to build a mosque in Nazareth, immediately adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation.]

FIDES: And for the Christians?

MANNS: Christians here, thanks to the visit and also to the local synod which just ended, are beginning to have a clearer picture of their identity,w hich distinguishes them from Jews and Muslims. The Palestinian Church finds it difficult here to accept Judaism. Rejection of the state of Israel for decades led also to a side-stepping of the Christian faith's Jewish roots.

    There is also an economic factor. There are many rich Christians in the Palestinian zones, but they prefer to emigrate, to take another citizenship, rather then to invest creatively in this area. The Pope, calling for a rediscovery of our being children of God, also asked for commitment to affirm human dignity. Christians must work to improve their conditions and also to recognize this dignity to Jews and Muslims. They can truly be bridges of reconciliation. For example: Christians here reject the Bible, or better the Old Testament, because they say it is "Israel's Book." In this way they interpret the Bible in a political manner and so doing, justify Israel's political way of reading it. The Pope, with this pilgrimage, called for a new discovery of the spiritual message of the Bible, the promises to Abraham and the fulfillment of these promises in Jesus Christ. I hope that the Church in Jerusalem in the future will produce great Biblical experts. It is much easier for them to learn Hebrew and to penetrate the Jewish mentality than for any Western scholar.

FIDES: The Pope came as a pilgrim to the Holy Land_

MANNS: The Pope, in the context of the Jubilee, called everyone to make a pilgrimage, first of all spiritual. Jews make a pilgrimage three times a year: at Easter (Passover), at Pentecost (Shabuoth) and at Succot. Three times a year Jewish males must stand before God. We Christians must also rediscover Christianity as a pilgrimage. Faith is a daily drama not the acquisition of a set of rules once and for all. The Pope wants all of us to make this journey and rediscover the roots of the Bible, not from a point of view of study or exegesis, but from a spiritual point of view as he did in these six days.


March 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 62

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