Beyond the Cusp

May 23, 2014

Pope’s Trip Agenda Proves to be Anti-Israel

Ever since Palestinian Chairman made a trip to the Vatican in October 2013, and was received by the Pope Francis who presented Abbas with a gift, a very fancy pen, Abbas immediately commented that, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.” Pope Francis’s response was reportedly to comment that he held hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.” Ever since I read about the discussion between Pope Francis and Chairman Abbas and the further discussions between Abbas and party with other Vatican officials I have dreaded that the need would arise to have to address the potential inferences and political potentials from the exchange of pleasantries. That day has come as Pope Francis is due to visit the Middle East including Jordan, the Palestinian West Bank semi-autonomous areas and finally Israel and in that order. The Vatican has released some announced intentions and itinerary for Pope Francis’s coming visit and much of it will pose adversarial positions against Israel on virtually every front. There are potentials in both the more obvious political front of the peace process but also on religious subject over whose claims take precedence over a building which contains an extremely holy Jewish site as well as a potentially holy Christian site.


Before having to comment, perhaps simply quoting the announcements which have been issued by the Vatican in reference to Pope Francis’s visit scheduled for the coming Sunday and Monday would be the safest place to begin. The Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a position roughly equivalent to a Prime Minister, announced that Pope Francis plans to talk at length about, “Palestinian people’s right to have a homeland, sovereign and independent.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin added his personal feelings stating “I really hope that the fruit will be to help politicians and all people of good will take courageous decisions on the path to peace.” When pressed to be more informative and specific, the Cardinal continued explaining that Pope Francis would talk about “the Palestinian people’s right to have a homeland, sovereign and independent, the right to move around freely, the right to live in dignity.” These quotes from Vatican City lay to waste any belief that the previous claims from Pope Francis who had stated that he would be making a visit which would be purely “religious not political.” This claim had been dented by the released itinerary when provided stated the decision was to begin his trip from Jordan and fly directly by helicopter to the Palestinian Authority controlled city of Bethlehem before making his way to Jerusalem and Israel. Of course these announcements could not be said to be completely unexpected as the Vatican had recognized the “State of Palestine” during the votes in 2012 at the United Nations, a definite precursor for the coming events.


That pretty much presents the political, now for the religious potential for confrontation. The Vatican has confirmed that they have no intentions to claim or demand ownership of the Cenacle, the room alleged to be the site of the Last Supper which is located one floor above King David’s Tomb, a revered Jewish holy site. A report in the Salt Lake Tribune claimed that reports coming from the Vatican official Monsignor William Shomali, the auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, stated, “All the Vatican wishes is to hold two hours of prayer every day in the early morning before visitors start to visit it.” The Monsignor further quantified pointing out that Christians have prayed at the Cenacle for ten centuries “because it is said to be the place where Jesus had the Last Supper and where he washed the feet of his 12 disciples. For Christians it is a major holy place.” And further, in the spirit of “interreligious dialogue, it would be nice to have one holy place where many events are commemorated, and where people of different religions can come to pray.” Unfortunately, should such a situation be established, it would present some major complications and consequences to any Jewish practices within the entirety of the building. Should the site be made into a place where regular, daily services were held, it would be defined as being a Church which would prevent Jewish prayers from being held within the entire building under strict rules of Jewish law (Halacha), this defeating the whole idea of a place where multiple religions could all pray.


The probability that behind the smiles which will still most certainly be on display for the photographers, there will be some tight lipped and stern faces behind the scenes in private where honest discourse may be somewhat less pleasant than if the Pope’s visit had taken a less challenging message presenting challenges to the Jewish State on so many levels. Personally, I would have preferred the Pope coming to the Holy Land should be a time of coming together and building bridges and bringing Jews and Catholics closer together. Unfortunately, Pope Francis has chosen not to take such an approach and instead appears determined to set Israeli-Vatican relations back possibly more than a century to a time when the two religions were more confrontational than allied. I appreciate that the Pope plans on laying a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the great Zionist leader, a symbolic gesture apologizing for when in 1904, Zionist leader Theodor Herzl visited the Vatican to ask Pope Pius the Tenth to help establish a modern Jewish state in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish nation and Pope Pius rejected the request outright. This was unsurprising in hindsight as the Vatican was still espousing replacement theological approach which was heavily steeped in the Jews remaining homeless and in the Diaspora as strangers and outsiders wherever they lived and often treated as outcasts being blamed for ever ill that befell any society. This gesture is much appreciated and, some might claim, way overdue. Perhaps it may be best to take good cheer from the wreath laying, hope that whatever compromise that can be reached concerning King David’s Tomb, if any, continues to allow for Halachic Jewish prayers and services to continue and some allowance, though not likely daily, for Christian prayer is found. As far as Pope Francis finding the magic solution that establishes a Palestinian state without the complete destruction of Israel, that is really not at all likely as the Palestinians, all of them including Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), People for the Liberation of Palestine, and especially Mahmoud Abbas in near countless speeches and interviews in Arabic, are united in the one cause, the eradication of the Jewish state and its replacement by an Arab and Islamic state completely eliminating any Jewish presence within the Palestinian entity. The Pope is going to find that the soft and flowing sweet words spoken with him by Mahmoud Abbas were the same honey coated lies camouflaging the bile and hatred he holds for Israel and the Jews as well as his contempt for the Christians, including Catholics, which has been proven by the Islamization of Bethlehem since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. But it does appear that Abbas is capable of charming and deceiving virtually everybody and apparently Pope Francis is among the deceived.


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