"The Pope will travel to the Holy Land next spring. He has been invited repeatedly by all the Christian Churches in Jerusalem, by the government, and by the Palestine Authority itself. The problem will be to respect the Pope's wish: that the event be a truly spiritual pilgrimage and a strong impetus for peace," stated the Holy See diplomat.
"The Jubilee year will be a period of conversion and return to following in the footsteps and fidelity of the Lord Jesus, but also the occasion for the ecumenical meeting of all the brethren of the different churches who believe in Christ, of dialogue among the three monotheists religions and a year of peace," he continued.
The first significant steps have already been taken, the Nuncio announced. "From the top of the Mount of Olives, for the first time a Cardinal, a Rabbi and a Moslem leader have prayed together for peace in Jerusalem and the world, each one in his own tongue and in his own religious tradition, but all directed to the same God. The event took place at the end of the 4th Congress of Priests from different parts of the world. Inside the Cenacle, Bishops and priests from all the Christian churches in Jerusalem met with five Catholic priests, each of these representing a different continent; they shook hands and prayed the Our Father together," Archbishop Sambi said.
"Altogether, the Christians comprise 2% of the Holy Land's population," added the Nuncio. "They are few but precious, because on behalf of all Christ's disciples in the world, they maintain the faith alive in the places connected to our Redemption. Mother Church in Jerusalem continues to give painful birth to the rest of the Church spread around the world. In general, pilgrim faithful have few contacts with members of the Church in the Holy Land. If I may make a suggestion, I would encourage groups that come to Jerusalem to choose a parish and go one afternoon to meet with the Catholics there." ZE99072601
The Cardinal wrote: "Sadly, the Council's view [of the Church] has not been kept in mind by a good part of post-Conciliar theology, and has been replaced by an idea of the 'people of God' that, in not a few cases, is almost banal, reducing it to an a-theological and purely sociological view."
"This banalization of the Church is combined with a reduced and politicized Christology," noted the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Thus, for many, the Church is a human invention, an institution created by the Christian community, which could easily be reorganized according to the needs of the historical and cultural variables of the time. The message is precisely to recover the persuasion of faith that the Church is not ours, but the Lord's; to reconstitute a truly Catholic climate means to want to understand once again the meaning of the Church as Church of the Lord, as a place of the presence of the mystery of God and the Lord resurrected in the world."
Ratzinger explained that "this ecclesiastical truth in a certain sense was 'brought back to light' during the first half of our century, the result of enthusiastic reflection by numerous theologians, among whom were the exemplary and significant figures of thinkers like Casel, Guardini, De Lubac, Journet, and Congar. Later, Pius XII's encyclical 'Mystici Corporis,' confirmed the mysterious dimension of the Church. Making use of these antecedents, Vatican Council II put the reality of the 'mystery' at the center and heart of the ecclesiastical doctrine, exploring the 'divine plan' with eyes of faith. This plan was proposed and contemplated for the Church from all eternity and destined to be fulfilled historically and visibly. Vatican Council II's dogmatic constitution 'Lumen Gentium' is the authorized synthesis and fruit of this ecclesiastical rebirth of the preceding decades. The Church's dependence on the divine mystery -- the Christological mystery -- appears in the very first lines of the text, which refer to Christ's light shining on the Church's countenance."
Cardinal Ratzinger went on to say that "the idea of Jesus Christ, of his plan for salvation, of the image of man, of the interpretation of history, is reflected in the understanding of the Church."
"A decoration in the right side of the nave of the Norman Cathedral of Monreal [Sicily] is known as the picture of 'Jesus walking on the waters.' The mosaic expresses Jesus' love and tenderness toward his disciples, reflected in the figure of Peter," the Cardinal explained. "Because of the wind, Peter was filled with fear and about to drown in the Sea of Galilee. He calls on the Master's help, expressing his love and trust in Jesus and Jesus saves him, as he will save all the other disciples."
"The message and symbolism of the mosaic must be understood in light of the Apostle Paul's expression 'dilexit Ecclesiam,' which can be interpreted by the text that follows immediately after: 'And you, husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved his Church [dilexit Ecclesiam] and gave himself up for her to make her holy.' Jesus' initiative of love toward the disciples in difficulty on the sea is expressed in the Pauline text as an initiative of love for the whole Church. It is about sacrificial love because Christ gave his life, dying on the Cross, to make his Church holy. The meaning and importance of the message depicted in the mosaic are obvious." Therefore, Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized: "The Church is not just a human institution; because of its divine origin it is, above all, a 'mystery.' " ZE99072604
According to Italian Catholic writer Vittorio Messori, the Enlightenment cast a "black legend" shadow on the Crusades, and used it as a weapon in its psychological war against the Roman Catholic Church. In an article in "Corriere della Sera," Italy's most important newspaper, Messori wrote, "In order to complete the work of the Reformation, it was 18th century Europe that began the chain of 'Roman infamies' that have become dogma."
"In connection with the Crusades, it was anti-Catholic propaganda that invented the name, just as it invented the term Middle Ages, chosen by 'enlightened' historiography to describe the parenthesis of darkness and fanaticism between the splendors of Antiquity and the Renaissance. It goes without saying that those who attacked Jerusalem 900 years ago would have been very surprised had they been told that they were engaged in what eventually would be known as the 'first Crusade.' For them it was an itinerary, a 'pilgrimage,' a route, a passage. Those same 'armed pilgrims' would have been even more surprised had they foreseen the accusations leveled against them of trying to convert the 'infidel,' of securing commercial routes to the West, of creating European 'colonies' in the Middle East..."
Sadly, Messori said, "the dark invention of the 'Crusade' has ended by instilling a feeling of guilt in the West, including among some members of the Church, who are ignorant of what really happened." In addition, "in the East, the legend has turned against the entire West: we all pay -- and will continue to pay, the consequences of the Islamic masses' desire for revenge, of their call for vengeance against the 'Great Satan,' which, by the way, is not just the United States, but the whole of Christianity, the very one responsible for the 'Crusades.' After all, is it not Westerners themselves who insist on saying that it was a terrible, unforgivable aggression against the pious, devout and meek followers of the Koran?"
"But there is a question we must ask ourselves. In the context of more than a thousand years of Christian-Islamic relations, who has been the victim and who the aggressor?" asked the journalist who interviewed the Pope in "Crossing the Threshold of Hope." When Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem in 638, the city had been Christian for over three centuries. Soon after, the Prophet's disciples invaded and destroyed the glorious churches of Egypt, first, and then of North Africa, causing the extinction of Christianity in places that had had Bishops like St. Augustine. Later it was the turn of Spain, Sicily and Greece, and the land that would eventually become Turkey, where the communities founded by St. Paul himself were turned into ruins. In 1453, after seven centuries of siege, Constantinople, the second Rome, capitulated and became Islamic. The Islamic threat reached the Balkans but, miraculously, the onslaught was stopped and forced to turn back at Vienna's walls. If the Jerusalem massacre of 1099 is execrated, Mohammed II's action in Otranto [Italy] in 1480 must not be forgotten, a raw example of a bloody funeral procession of sufferings," Messori stated.
Messori concluded by asking a number of questions: "At present, what Moslem country respects the civil rights and freedom of worship of any other than their own? Who is angered by the genocide of Armenians in the past, and of Sudanese Christians at present? According to the devotees of the Koran, is the world not divided between the 'Islamic territory' and the 'war territory' -- all those areas that must be converted to Islam, whether they like it or not?"
The Italian journalist provided his answers to these questions in his final remarks. "A simple review of history, along very general lines, confirms an obvious truth: Christianity is constantly on the defensive when it comes to Moslem aggression; this has been the case from the beginning until now. For example, in Africa at present there is a bloody offensive by the Moslems to convert ethnic groups that the heroic sacrifices of generations of missionaries had succeeded in baptizing. Admittedly, some in the course of history need to ask for forgiveness. But, in this instance, must it be Catholics who ask for forgiveness for actions in self-defense, and for keeping the road open for pilgrimage to Jesus' places, which was the reason for the Crusades?" ZE99072705