DAILY CATHOLIC   TUESDAY   November 30, 1999   vol. 10, no. 227


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"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"

        By the end of this day, we will have said sayonarra to November, entering upon the final month of the millennium. Many like to say only 25 shopping days until Christmas, but we call it only 25 days until Jubilee 2000 for the Holy Father will officially inaugurate the Jubilee 2000 celebrations when he opens the door of St. Peter's on Christmas Eve Rome time. We have adjusted our Countdown clock accordingly to coincide with this event rather than the much anticipated millennium a week later. Pope John Paul II will follow by opening three other doors throughout the major four churches in Rome - the Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul-Outside-the Walls. It will be the first such gesture in the history of the Church, but then there's been only one other millennium and there were so many superstitions during the pontificate of Pope Silvester II, the 139th successor of Peter who ushered in the second millennium. Many thought the turn of the century would produce the end times and the apocalypse. There was a saying very prominent in those times, "A thousand and not another thousand." Remember, too, these were the dark ages and superstitions were the norm of the day. Few truly knew the Faith because of the lack of written materials and though monks and teachers reached out to the people, more often than not the audiences were the academia for the common peasant had no time for lectures when the crops and herds beckoned.

        Now fast-forward a millennium later. Folks, we're still in the dark ages for superstitions still rule the day and few know the Faith even today. Either they have become too busy with the high-tech world they're engrossed in, or, in the effort to achieve the world, have turned their backs on the tenets of the Faith because Catholicism is not easy, the path is not strewn with roses, though many Catholics are trying to do just that by casting plastic roses on the way in trying to transform the Faith into a pick-n'-choose religion. It doesn't work that way.

        There are often things that don't work out the way man wants because he is forcing the issue. Jesus is not happy with that. He can't be too happy with all the discord going on in the mid-east either. Here was the land where He grew up, learned at His Mother Mary's knee and at His Foster Father Joseph's work bench the carpentry trade. Here is where He walked, sandals full of dust and stones; where He entered the tributary of the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, where He recruited His Apostles and slowly but surely over three years built up a following. But many of those early fair-weather followers fell away. In fact, only Our Lady, John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene stayed with Him to the end on a steep rocky hill overlooking Jerusalem. His last words included the plea to His Heavenly Father from the Cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23: 34).

        Today we echo Our Lord's words toward those in the Holy Land who are holding hostage the status of these historic sites from faithful pilgrims who want so much to trace His footsteps in this holiest of land 2000 years later. But things are not exactly kosher in those parts of the world. The latest flap over the mosque in Nazareth would seem like an open and shut case purported against the Muslims, trying to muscle in and make it tougher for the Christian pilgrims. After all, if they want to build a mosque close to the Church of the Basilica of the Annunciation marking the reported spot where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Spirit became her Divine Spouse, then they could wait a year. But what if we told you that the majority of Muslims have no intentions to build it at all in that spot? What if we told you that an Israeli court ruled that the Islamists had no right to that ground and must remove their tents and that the Israeli government ignored this ruling? What if we told you that this is really an Israeli plot to de-Christianize Nazareth and ultimately Jerusalem? What if we told you that Yassir Arafat is not the bad guy in this whole scenario, but rather has been working closely with the Holy Father to resolve it on the side of Christians? What if we told you the Israeli government politicos, spearheaded by Ehud Barak bought the Muslim vote back in 1997 by promising them this prime piece of property when in effect they had no ownership to it? What if we told you the Israelis have a track record for not defending the Christians, especially when they were attacked last year on Easter? What if we told you the Israeli government is ignoring the moderate Muslim interests while honoring the extremists? Who are they beholden to? Could there be a plot underfoot to blame the Vatican for this whole sordid mess, thus portraying Israel as the "savior" to sort out this mess and take over? We have the facts to back up all of the above claims.

        They were provided by a reputable source, Father Labib Kobti who publishes Al-Bushra in the Holy Land and is quite close to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Since Nazareth was a Christian city in the past and associated with the Christian Faith and Our Lord, he writes, "In Nazareth there is nothing very important for the Jews and the Muslims." He further says that the "Israeli government (under Netanyahu) was the one who presented to an Israeli court the case of the spot in front of the Church of the Basilica of the Annunciation where the Islamists have put the tent and started to pray. Not all the Muslims were supporting the presence of the tent, or the idea of building a mosque there." After a court decision agreed with the latter, the Israeli regime under Barak "did not respect the decision of the Israeli court and decided to give to the Islamists the right to build a mosque and promised $100,000. to them for the building of the mosque." So they can't exactly wash their hands of this. Add to this that the news media are twisting this issue in favor of Israel against the Vatican, claiming the Holy See is jumping to conclusions because they are trying to get to the truth. Arafat's wife spoke the truth with Hillary Clinton present and the first lady was not happy with the results, not only because she was embarrassed but the American government knows what's going on as well. There is a conspiracy afoot to channel funds and slant the news toward Israel at the expense of the Palestinian Christians and Muslims as well as all Christians in the Holy Land. Father Kobti writes, "The Vatican is not trying in any way to be anti-Muslim, anti-mosque, anti-Israeli, anti-Semite, anti or pro anybody...the Vatican like the local Christians of the Holy Land have asked that one of the most important shrines of the Christian faith be respected and honored by the people of the Holy Land. Is it asking too much?" He goes on to ask what would be the problem with building the mosque elsewhere since land is not at a premium in these God-forsaken parts.

        He also shows where the moderate Muslims of Israel and Palestine, as well as Jordan and even Saudi Arabia have shown their support for their Christian brethren of the Holy Land for they too realize the underlying reason Israel is pulling this "end run." Extreme Islamists are being used as the scapegoat along with the Vatican. Talk about strange bedfellows! And why? Father Kobti writes, "Now the Israelis will start again their claims over the whole Jerusalem, and as Ashrawi have said, 'The Israelis are trying to show that the Palestinians cannot be entrusted with the holy sites (in Jerusalem) and portray the Palestinians as a people troubled by sectarianism' and the need of Israel to be the protector of these or those or mediator and police between blood brothers." He further points out that Israel is telling the Holy See that they have nothing to do with these holy places in the Holy Land nor do the Christians since they are the only force that can provide for the pilgrims and protect them. What Father Kobti is claiming is that Israel is "trying to Judacize all Jerusalem, and both Muslims and Christians will become a minority" under Israeli law and rules. It is the Israeli's end-run on fourth and long.

        While Father Kobti is, of course, writing from a totally subjective point of view, what he presents are facts that are alarming. He echoes what many of his countrymen feel, that the mosque is not the central point of all of this, but rather a smokescreen to cover up Israel's real agenda. In seeking harmony Father Kobti writes "What is more important for us to build a mosque beside a church and make the minaret higher than the church bell tower or to respect the Christian presence?" But the Vatican also echoes Father Kobti's fears, confirming that the Israeli decision could "foment divisions" between Christian and Muslims in the Holy Land. Israel's ambassador to the Vatican Aharon Lopez is caught in the middle, backpedaling in trying to give lipservice to the Israeli decision, while knowing full well the only one in Ehud Barak's cabinet that supports the building of the mosque is the ambitious National Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami who, as FIDES reports today, has "isolated himself from the rest of the cabinet. In fact some "high-ranking security force members were absolutely against the initiative" according to the report from the reliable ZENIT News Agency. Most within Barak's cabinet look at "the decision with disbelief and horror."

        If Barak is a noble man then it is merely a political blunder that he will overrule, putting Ami in his place. Father David Jaeger, who just returned from the Holy Land, is hopeful this will be the scenario. Father Jaeger, a Jew by birth who converted to Catholicism and became a Franciscan, was one of the principals who helped effect full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See. He reports, "All the top Israeli officials I have spoken to in recent months disapprove of the decision to authorize construction of the mosque." Father Jaeger also believes that the Israeli government could "return Muslim property which Israel confiscated after the 1948 war. It could restore abandoned mosques and burial grounds, and build new mosques in appropriate places - not on the doorstep of the Basilica of the Annunciation, so dear and unique for Christians world-wide, because there the Word was made flesh." While were delving in politics, we want to make very clear that this is just what it is: politics and foreign intrigue. It is in no way religion. Rather than labeling us anti-Semitic for our stance on behalf of Rome here, please label us for what we are truly prejudiced against: One World Order and the vehicle by which the antichrist will ascend to power, which on Friday we will provide part two in this saga as we delve into the millennium madness that is consuming the Holy Land and how history is coming full circle.

        This whole Israel-against-the-world syndrome is interesting because Israel has cleverly been fueling resentment toward the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church, trying to discredit her in very subtle ways. Why do you think there has been so much recent vitriole heaped against Pope Pius XII with false accusations that he was a Nazi sympathizer and didn't lift a finger to help the Jews? The facts are that these lies are being spread by radical Israeli factions who are secretly in concert with the government to discredit Pius and weaken the Church in the eyes of the world. Keep in mind, this is not the Jewish Faith that is attacking Pius and the Church, but rather a government passing itself off as Jewish but in effect more in alignment with the One World Order and satan rather than Abraham. We say this because countless rabbis of great stature past and present have come to Pius' defense, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Jewish Church itself does not hold Pius guilty, but rather have testified that he helped thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust working behind the scenes. These have been verified. The criticism that he didn't speak out strongly is hogwash for even the most radical knows to have done that would have meant certain death for countless more Catholics and Jews considering Hitler's insanity and retaliating hatred. That was evident in our profile yesterday on Saint Edith Stein when the Dutch Bishops spoke out about Nazi occupation. Can you imagine the carnage and confusion had Pius spoken out stronger than he did?

        He realized discretion is the better part of valor and we would hope and pray the Israeli government and powers that be worldwide in cahoots with them, will realize this and stop the charade, back off and work for what His Holiness John Paul II is sincerely striving toward: World Peace! This upcoming Jubilee 2000 Year the Pope will undertake an historic "Jubilee Journey" that will take him from Ur, birthplace of Abraham, to Mt. Sinai to the Holy Land. As things stand right now, Nazareth could be erased from the itinerary because of Israel's stubbornness. That would be sad and tragic for Nazareth is a crucial, integral leg in the complete journey. Right now, the way relations between Rome and the Israeli government are going, the Pope's visiting Jerusalem might even be a stretch. How sad that would be, causing us to pray for a solution and call upon the world community to keep politics out of his spiritual journey which the Vicar of Christ claims it will solely be. In the meantime, as the bickering and political intrigue continue masquerading as religious strife, we mercifully express from our collective hearts, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Michael Cain, editor

November 30, 1999      volume 10, no. 227
Today's Catholic PewPoint Editorial


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