DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN-MON     July 2-5, 1999     vol. 10, no. 128

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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JERUSALEM AWAITS JOHN PAUL II

Latin Patriarch and Apostolic Nuncio Comment on Papal Letter

          JERUSALEM, JUL 1 (ZENIT).- John Paul II's letter, in which he expresses his desire to undertake a great pilgrimage to the places of Revelation, has sparked much interest in the Palestinian and Israeli press.

          Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, who just returned from Amman, the capital of Jordan, where he was elected president of the Pax Christi International Movement, told Vatican Radio that "we Catholics, but really all Christians, await this pilgrimage of the Holy Father, and we say to him now with all our heart: 'Welcome! This land is your land, as Peter's successor. This is Peter's land, Jesus' and the Holy Father's.' He himself admits he must return every now and then, because it is the land of the roots."

          The Patriarch disclosed that the Christians wait with anticipation for the publication of the dates of the papal trip. The Israeli Minister of Tourism mentioned the month of March, but this has not been confirmed by the Holy See.

          Sabbah insists that, as the papal letter states, John Paul II "is coming only to pray." He added: "We will pray for him and for the whole Church."

          The Patriarch's great wish us that "it will be a pilgrimage of hope, prayer and peace, as well as reconciliation among all the peoples of the region."

          Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine and apostolic nuncio in Israel, described the letter as "a profound meditation, both emotional and personal, on the places linked to our redemption. I was impressed by the passage in which he quotes phrases from his diary written in 1965, when he visited the Holy Land. The Pope clearly expresses what these places evoke and mean to him. But he also points out to the faithful the spirit of faith with which they also must visit the holy places."

          Archbishop Sambi emphasized the ecumenical dimension of the letter. "The Pope has a profound desire for the unity of the Christian Churches; he expresses it in few but very intense words. He is also interested in the dialogue among the three monotheist religions."

          John Paul II's representative in Israel disclosed that those in charge of the sacred places have started to work on a plan to welcome and give spiritual encouragement to the pilgrims who will come to the Holy Land, on the occasion of the year 2000. Last week, the experiment made with participants in the 4th World Meeting of Priests was very successful. They were in direct contact with the parishes and communities of these places.

          Archbishop Sambi commented, "This is a contact that must be fostered. But it is important to keep in mind that it must be planned before the pilgrim group leaves its own country. The exchange between the priests of communities of the Holy Land and pilgrim groups must be especially encouraged." ZE99070106


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July 2-5, 1999       volume 10, no. 128
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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