- We start things off with some good news: The row that ensued between Jewish leaders and the Vatican after the latter lifted the excommunication of a bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust, is over -- or so declared Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of Haifa, in comments to the press, following a meeting between the Pope, a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.
"This was not just another meeting," said Rabbi Cohen:
"This was a special experience, a turning point, the end of a crisis. We could not have expected a warmer reception."
"I Am Preparing to Visit the Holy Land As a Pilgrim" - The full address of Benedict XVI upon receiving a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
- On March 10th, Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio in Israel held a press conference was held in Jerusalem to present the schedule for Benedict XVI's trip to the Holy Land:
the most important moments of the trip will be three public Masses, one in Jerusalem, another in Bethlehem and the final one in Nazareth.
The Pope will spend May 11-12 in Jerusalem, the 13th he will go to Bethlehem and the 14th to Nazareth.
The Mass in Nazareth is expected to draw the largest crowd, given its coincidence with the conclusion of a Year of the Family. The Holy Father will bless a cornerstone for a new international center dedicated to support the family.
The Bishop of Rome will also have some key moments of prayer in the Holy Land: the first in the Upper Room and the last in the Holy Sepulcher.
Meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian Authority presidents are scheduled, as are meetings with Jewish and Muslim leaders in respective holy places of both creeds, and a visit to the Holocaust memorial, the Yad Vashem.
- Israeli President Shimon Peres has welcomed Pope Benedict’s decision to visit Israel:
"I am delighted that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has responded positively and accepted my invitation to visit the Holy Land," he said. "The Pope will be a most honored guest, welcomed and respected by people from all walks of life. His visit will be a moving and important event bringing the spirit of peace and hope. Welcome to Israel."Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the visit:
Abbas said the hopes the visit will be the start of a lasting good, and a sign of love and peace in the land of peace.
Abbas ordered formation of a higher committee to be headed by Palestinian Minister of Local Governance Ziad Al-Bandak to prepare for the Pope’s historic visit.
- Richard Owen of The Times highlights the fact that, if the trip goes according to plan, Pope Benedict XVI is set to become the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to enter a mosque in Jerusalem:
Monsignor Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio in Israel, said it had been agreed "in principle" that the pontiff would visit the seventh century Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in Islam, together with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. It contains a rock on which the Prophet Muhammed is said to have left his footprint as he ascended to heaven on a "night journey" accompanied by the archangel Gabriel.
- The Israeli Tourism Ministry has already begun its preparations for the papal visit, with funds distributed towards renovations and preparations at Christian sites in Israel, including Qasr el-Yahud, the Good Samaritan site, the Cenacle (site of the Last Supper), the Jesus Trail and more.
- In an interview with Vatican Radio this week, Custodian of the Holy Land Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa said that news of the papal visit is "very encouraging and will help us to hold our heads high and soar a bit higher than we’ve been able to until now."
Friday, March 13, 2009
Pope Benedict's visit to the Holy Land is scheduled for May 8-15, 2009. We'll be providing roundups of news, commentary and coverage of his visit, with increasing frequency as we draw nearer to the trip.