FRIDAY
March 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 82

Keeping the Spirit of the Jubilee Alive

One Year Ago Today:

POPE CELEBRATES MASS IN JERUSALEM CENACLE
John Paul II Overwhelmed at Scene of Last Supper

    JERUSALEM, MAR 23 (ZENIT.org).- In the early hours of the morning, for the first time in history, a Roman Pontiff repeated in private the breaking of the bread in the Upper Room of the Cenacle, the very place where Christ ate the Last Supper with his 12 Apostles, and instituted the Eucharist.

    It was truly an historic event as, in 1964, Pope Paul VI was not permitted to celebrate Mass in this place. Before the Mass, John Paul II explained its significance: "I have ardently desired to visit this place as a pilgrim to celebrate Mass here, where the Lord, on the night he voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion, instituted the ministerial priesthood and left us his Body and Blood as a memorial of his glorious death."

    During the homily of the concelebration, which included Catholic leaders of the Holy Land and Cardinals and Bishops accompanying him on his pilgrimage, the Holy Father explained that "in a sense, Peter and the Apostles, in the person of their Successors, have come back today to the Upper Room, to profess the unchanging faith of the Church: 'Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.' "

    The presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the greatest wealth of the Church, the Pope said visibly moved. The Eucharist edifies her, because the "hands that broke bread for the disciples at the Last Supper were to be stretched out on the Cross in order to gather all people to himself in the eternal Kingdom of his Father. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, he never ceases to draw men and women to be effective members of his Body."

    "'Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.' This is the 'mystery of faith' that we proclaim in every celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus Christ, the Priest of the new eternal Covenant, has redeemed the world by his Blood. Risen from the dead, he has gone to prepare a place for us in his Father's house. In the Spirit who has made us God's beloved children, in the unity of the Body of Christ, we await his return with joyful hope."

    At the end of the Mass, the Pope signed the traditional Holy Thursday Letter to Priests for this year, here, in the Cenacle, where Christ instituted the ministerial priesthood. "What better opportunity for this Holy Year?" the Pope said.

    As a commemoration of this historic visit of the Pope to the Holy Land, Israel promised to return the Cenacle to the Holy See. Since 1967, it has been the property of the Israeli government, entrusted to the Ministry for Worship. The building, which is regarded as the first seat of the newborn Church, is also an object of pilgrimage for Jews, as they believe that King David is buried here, although there is no archeological evidence to prove it. Indeed, the room where Tradition holds that Jesus washed his disciples' feet today is a synagogue. In the past, it was also used for worship by Muslims.

    The cloister that leads to the second floor, where the Cenacle is, at present is a Museum of the Holocaust and a Rabbinical School. The Israeli government now seems disposed to give the Cenacle to Catholics in exchange for Santa Maria Blanca de Toledo, a synagogue that was turned into a Catholic Church. The Franciscans, who are Custodians of the Holy Places, were expelled from here in 1551 by the Ottoman regime. Ever since then, they have been trying to recover it, even appealing to international organizations. ZE00032309

POPE ASKS RABBIS TO ACKNOWLEDGE CATHOLIC CONDEMNATION OF ANTI-SEMITISM
Assures Them He Has Done Everything Possible To Overcome Prejudices

    JERUSALEM, MAR 23 (ZENIT.org).- The meeting John Paul II with the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem ended with a firm handshake. The Pope met with Meir Israel Lau and Mordechai Bakshi-Doron, who, respectively, represent the two branches of Judaism -- the Ashkenazim, who settled in middle and northern Europe after the Diaspora, and the Sephardim, who settled in western Europe, primarily Portugal and Spain, before the Inquisition -- ended in a firm handshake.

    At the end of the meeting, the Jewish religious leaders gave the Pope an ancient copy of the Old Testament, known as the "Jerusalem Bible." Raising his voice, Rabbi Lau read the dedication in clear Biblical language: "Blessed be you upon arrival and blessed be you upon departure."

    The meeting, which lasted almost a half an hour, was held at the headquarters of the Grand Rabbinate of Jerusalem, following the Pope's Mass in the Cenacle. The Pope was accompanied by several Cardinals of the Roman Curia and Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem.

    When addressing the Rabbis, John Paul II said: "Personally, I have always wanted to be counted among those who work, on both sides, to overcome old prejudices and to secure ever wider and fuller recognition of the spiritual patrimony shared by Jews and Christians."

    The Holy Father repeated what he said in the Synagogue in Rome in 1986: "We Christians recognize that the Jewish religious heritage is intrinsic to our own faith: 'you are our elder brothers.' "

    But the Roman Pontiff also requested that "the Jewish people acknowledge that the Church utterly condemns anti-Semitism and every form of racism as being altogether opposed to the principles of Christianity. We must work together to build a future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews.

    The Holy Father concluded: "There is much that we have in common. There is so much that we can do together for peace, for justice, for a more human and fraternal world."

    After the private meeting with the Rabbis, the Pope greeted the rest of the Jewish religious leaders. "There continue to be technological and ideological differences between us, but we are faced by the common challenge of globalization and 'technologization,' " Mordechai Bakshi-Doron said.

    The Pontiff then went by car to the presidential palace where he was received by Ezer Weizman. Among the diplomats, was Leah, the widow of Yitzhak Rabin. During the meeting, John Paul II stressed the new era of reconciliation and peace that is evident in relations between Jews and Christians. ZE00032311

JOHN PAUL II SAYS WORLD CANNOT FORGET HOLOCAUST
An Emotional Prime Minister Acknowledges Pope's Role in New Dialogue

    JERUSALEM, MAR 23 (ZENIT.org).- John Paul II's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is also a very intense moment of encounter with the Jewish world. The climax came this morning when the Holy Father visited Jerusalem's Holocaust Memorial.

    At dawn, the Jewish press was calling for very decisive intervention by the Pope, as many Jews around the world are unaware of what John Paul II has said and done in regard to the Holocaust. The Pope did not disappoint the media. He paid homage to the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Nazi regime, homage that was characterized by overwhelming, emotion-filled silence, broken by the chant of a Rabbi, who raised his voice in a prayer of lament to the Lord.

    After lighting the eternal flame that recalls the extermination of the Jews, facing the inscription of the 21 concentration camps and an urn containing the ashes of Jews who died in Auschwitz crematoriums, the Pope renewed the plea for forgiveness for the responsibilities of Christians during the Holocaust. "As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love, and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The Church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the Creator inherent in every human being."

    Before standing to read his address, evidently emotionally moved, the Pope heard the reading of a letter of a Polish Jew deported to Auschwitz, who was entrusting her son to a Catholic friend. The little boy was later killed in the same concentration camp. The Pope also met some Polish Jews who survived the concentration camps. Among them were his childhood friend, Jerzy Kluger, and Edith Zirer, the Jew from Wadowice who says she owes her life to Karol Wojtyla.

    Liberated in January 1945, she left the Skarzysko-Kaienna camp totally weakened by tuberculosis and other ailments that had her virtually paralyzed. A young seminarian by the name of Karol Wojtyla found her, gave her a sandwich and a cup of tea. Then he carried her on his shoulders for almost two miles, from the concentration camp to the railway station, where the girl joined other survivors. After staying in a Krakow orphanage and a French sanatorium, in 1951 she emigrated to Israel where she married.

    Jerzy Kluger, who, as a child, listened to the Pope's father tell stories, went to Rome after the Second World War. He met Karol ("Lolek," as he calls him) again in the early 60s, during the time of Vatican Council II. The newspapers emphasized one of the interventions of Bishop Wojtyla, and that is how Kluger realized that the young Bishop was the friend with whom he went to school and played soccer. When a synagogue was constructed in Wadowice, and Wojtyla was already Pope, the Holy Father wrote a letter and asked his friend Jerzy to read it on his behalf during the assembly.

    At the Holocaust Memorial, John Paul II said: "In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories that come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoa. My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the War. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbors, some of whom perished, while others survived."

    With a firm and composed voice the Holy Father said: "I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain."

    The Pope then gave the reasons why humanity cannot forget the Jewish Shoah. "We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism. How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a Godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people."

    "Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good," the Pope explained. "We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past."

    The Holy Father ended by hoping "that our sorrow for the tragedy, which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century, will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common Father in faith."

    Prime Minister Ehud Barak responded to the Pope's address, assuring the Pontiff of his "absolute commitment" to guarantee the rights and freedom of worship of all confessions present in the Holy Land, and to "maintain Jerusalem united, open and free, as it has never been until now." The Prime Minister greeted the Pope on behalf of all the citizens of Israel: Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druses.

    Barak quoted the words that the Pope often uses when referring to the Holocaust, "the long night of the Shoah" and he shuddered at the thought of the drama suffered by the Jewish people and his own relatives (his grandparents died in Dachau) during the Nazi regime. "There seemed to be no room for hope in God or the world," he said. But immediately after, he remembered the "just Gentiles," as they are referred to in Israel, who "secretly risked their lives to save others' lives. Their names are written on the walls around Yad Vashem, they will always be imprinted on our hearts."

    Among the just, Barak named John Paul II. "You have done more than anyone to apply the Church's historic change toward the Jewish people, a change begun by good Pope John XXIII." In this respect, according to the Prime Minister, the Pontiff's visit to the Memorial of the Holocaust, is "the climax of this historic journey of healing." ZE00032310

DRAMATIC PAPAL VISIT TO HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL

    JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- In an emotional appearance at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II emphasized that " the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place."

    Early in the morning of March 23, the Holy Father met with Israeli President Ezer Weizman to discuss the peace process. The meeting was friendly, and the Pope smiled readily as he met with Weizman and his wife.

    But as he arrived at Yad Vashem, the Pontiff's face was grave. He stopped to pray in silence for several moments before laying a floral wreath in front of an eternal flame in the memorial's Hall of Remembrance. Accompanied by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Pope also met with a number of Holocaust survivors. Among the several hundred people present for the occasion was Jerzy Kluger, a Jewish boyfriend friend of the Pope's. Many of the spectators wept freely as the Pope completed his tour and made his remarks.

    "In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence," the Pope remarked. "Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah."

    Recalling that he had lived with Jewish friends and neighbors as a young boy, and seen many of them disappear, the Pope continued: "I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who-- stripped of everything, especially of human dignity-- were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain."

    The Pope continued: "No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale. We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism."

    Implicitly rejecting the widespread complaint that the Holocaust was a consequence of Christian contempt for the Jews, the Pope asked: "How could man have such utter contempt for man?" Then he answered his own question: "Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people."

    The Pope praised the Christians-- recognized in Yad Vashem as the "righteous Gentiles"-- who had helped to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. Then he added: "In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews."

    "Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past," the Pope said. "Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti- Christian feeling among Jews."

    In his official response to the Pope's remarks, Prime Minister Barak praised John Paul, saying "You have done more than anyone else to bring about the historic change in the attitude of the Church toward the Jewish people, and to dress the gaping wounds that festered over many bitter centuries."

POPE MEETS RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF JERUSALEM

    JERUSALEM (CWNews.com) -- At a meeting with the religious leaders of the three major faiths represented in Jerusalem, Pope John Paul II said that inter-religious cooperation could be "an immense benefit" for "the cause of peace in the region."

    The Pope spoke to a March 23 meeting of Christians, Jews, and Muslims at the Notre Dame Center in the Old City of Jerusalem. Addressing an overflow crowd in an audience that fits 500 people, he said: "We are truly entering into a new era of inter-religious dialogue."

    Flanked by Rabbi Meir Lau, a leader of the Ashkenazic Jewish community; and Taizir al Tamin, the head judge of the top Palestinian Muslim tribunal, the Pope repeated his frequent assurances that he understands how the city of Jerusalem is held as sacred by the representatives of the three great monotheistic faiths. He also admitted: "We understand all the misunderstandings and conflicts of the past, and we now that they still bear a heavy influence on relations among Jews, Christians, and Muslims."

    "However," the Pope continued, believers of all these faiths must find "in our respective religious traditions" the understanding and the desire to work toward mutual understanding. He suggested that a keen awareness of past offenses should help religious leaders to understand the need to cooperate in building a new climate of mutual respect.

    "The Catholic Church wishes to pursue sincere and fruitful inter-religious dialogue with people of the Jewish faith and with the faithful of Islam," the Pope said. He added that dialogue should not be seen as a sort of gambit, or an attempt ultimately to impose one set of religious beliefs, but an attempt to work together toward an understanding of the truth-- as well as an effort to cooperate for the welfare of society.

    The Pope sidestepped one political controversy, after the Islamic leader Taizir al Tamin welcomed him to Jerusalem, identifying the city as "the eternal capital of the Muslims and the Palestinians." That claim was diametrically opposed to the claims frequently made by Israeli hosts during the Pope's trip-- the claim that Jerusalem is "the eternal capital of Israel." The Pope--who has frequently voiced his own preference for an international accord that would guarantee full access to Jerusalem for all believers-- simply said that the city should be known as "the city of peace."



March 23, 2001
volume 12, no. 82
JUBILEE MOMENTS TO REMEMBER
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