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Mar 24 09 12:45 PM
Manuel Domingos Bento, a 62-year-old farmer with a paralyzed right leg, had journeyed 50 miles to the outskirts of Angola's capital and slept here under
the stars beneath a thin blanket. A faithful Catholic, he did not want to be late for Mass on Sunday. Pope Benedict XVI was going to lead the service on the
last full day of his first trip to Africa.
Even with the help of a crutch, Mr. Bento was too unsteady to venture into the mammoth crowd that had gathered along the expansive dirt of a vacant lot near
a cement factory. When the pope finally arrived, the farmer was 200 yards away, able to see only the top part of the "popemobile," a sparkle of
glass under the harsh glint of a powerful sun.
Still, his eyes welled up with emotion. "This is the greatest moment of my life," he said, awed by the pope's presence, no matter how
The Mass lasted nearly two hours, and with the heat, there were some who left early. "I am tired, thirsty and hungry, and I have been blessed enough
already," said João Augusto Carvalho, a teenager.
But most worshipers stayed until the last. "I came here with a heavy heart, with many financial worries," said Mokusu Zola, 52, a driver who was
smiling rapturously. "My worries are lifted."
Angola's roads cannot support so big an event. A sea of walking bodies finally inched homeward, the great flock parting only when police motorcycles led
the popemobile up the center.
"Papa! Papa! Pope! Pope!" children shouted as they broke into a run, chasing this visitor to Africa as if they might catch him and hold on.
Mar 26 09 6:35 AM
First, the "liberation" part. Ask the typical American Catholic to tick off important issues facing the church, and you're likely to get a
dose of insider Catholic baseball: women in the church, teachings on sexual morality, the power of the pope or the bishops versus the laity, and so on. Put the
same question to a typical African, and the answer is usually more outward-looking: war, corruption and bad governance, human rights, poverty.
The dominant concern in African Catholicism, in other words, is transforming society, usually in what Westerners would consider a fairly progressive
That was also true of the first wave of liberation theology, which welled up in Latin America in the 1970s and '80s. What distinguishes the African
version, however, is the relative absence of internal ecclesiastical battles. In Africa, there's little sense of class struggle inside the church, of
positing a "church from below" in opposition to the hierarchy. For just that reason, the theology of liberation in Africa may well have more staying
power, because it's unlikely to generate the same backlash from officialdom.
Seen through American eyes, all this is potentially disconcerting news for at least two camps in the Catholic community in the States.
The first is the church's cultural warriors, who think of Africa only in terms of reinforcing conservative stands on abortion and homosexuality.
That's certainly true as far as it goes; many African Catholics include homosexuality on lists of social evils such as prostitution and thievery, without a
trace of self-consciousness. In the same vein, the idea of a "pro-choice Catholic" seems an almost unthinkable contradiction in terms. Yet those
cultural values (which are hardly exclusive to Catholics) stand alongside a cluster of other instincts that would give many American conservatives heartburn,
such as a passionate critique of global capitalism, concern for climate change and environmental protection, putting curbs on corporate power, and opposing
conflicts such as the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Here's one illustration of the point: at Benedict XVI's Mass in Yaoundè last Thursday, a surprising number
of local Catholics sported Obama t-shirts, something that would be difficult to imagine in the States.
The second camp likely to be nonplussed is liberal Catholic reformers, accustomed to thinking of liberation theology as an ally in efforts to decentralize
power in the church and to promote changes such as ending clerical celibacy or ordaining women. In reality, even the most progressive African Catholics have
relatively little interest in such questions.
"Our theology reflects the problems of our communities, which are social problems, not internal ecclesiastical questions," said Fr. Antoine Babè,
dean of the theology faculty at the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaoundè, Cameroon's capital. "These Western preoccupations don't
concern us very much." ..
Liberation theology African style
Mar 26 09 6:15 PM
- 09:30 Departure by plane from the International Airport Leonardo da Vinci at Fiumicino (Rome) to Queen Alia International Airport at Amman (Jordan).
- 14:30 Welcome Ceremony at the Queen Alia Airport in Amman.
- 15:30 Visit to the Center "Regina Pacis" in Amman.
- 17:40 Courtesy visit to their Majesties the King and Queen of Jordan at the Royal palace in Amman-Husseiny.
- 07.15 Private Mass in the Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature of Amman.
- 09.15 Visit of the Basilica of the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo.
- 10:00 The Popemobile goes through the Christian quarter of the city.
- 10:30 Blessing of the foundation stone of the Latin Patriarcal University.
- 11:30 Visit to the Hashemite museum and the Al-Hussein Bin Talal Mosque in Amman.
- 12:00 Meeting with Muslim religious leaders, members of Diplomatic corps and Rectors of universities in Jordan outside the mosque al-Hussein bin Talal in
- 17.30 Celebration of Vespers with priests, religious, religious, seminarians and ecclesial movements in the Greek-Melkite Cathedral of Saint-Georges in
- 10:00 Mass presided by the Holy Father at the Amman International Stadium. Regina Cœli prayer.
- 12.45 Lunch with the Patriarchs, the Bishops and the Papal suite to the Latin Vicariate of Amman.
Bethany of Transjordan
- 17:30 Visit to the site of Baptism of Christ, at Bethany of Transjordan.
- 18:00 Blessing of the first stone of the Latin and Greek Melkite churches at Bethany of Transjordan.
- 07:30 Private Mass in the chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature in Amman.
- 10:00 Departure ceremony at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman.
- 10:30 Departure from the Queen Alia International Airport Amman (Jordan) for Tel Aviv (Israel).
- 11:00 Welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.
- 16:15 Courtesy visit to the President of the State of Israel at the presidential palace in Jerusalem.
- 17:45 Visit to the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.
- 18:45 Meeting with organizations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the auditorium of Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem.
- 09:30 Visit to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Courtesy visit to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
- 10:00 Visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
- 10:45 Courtesy visit to the two Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem at Hechal Shlomo Center in Jerusalem.
- 11:45 Regina Cœli prayer with the Ordinaries of the Holy Land in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.
- 12.30 Brief visit to the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
- 13:00 Lunch with the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, the abbots and papal suite at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
- 16.30 Mass in the Valley of Jehoshaphat in Jerusalem.
- 09:00 Welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace, in Bethlehem.
- 10:00 Mass on the Manger's Square in Bethlehem.
- 12:30 Lunch with the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, the Franciscan community and the Papal suite at the Casa Nova in Bethlehem.
- 15.30 Private visit to the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
- 16:10 Visit to the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem
- 16:45 Visit to the refugee camp Al Aida' in Bethlehem.
- 18:00 Courtesy visit to the President of the Palestinian Authority at the Presidential Palace in Bethlehem.
- 18h40 Departure ceremony in the courtyard of the Presidential Palace.
- 10:00 Mass at Mount Precipice in Nazareth.
- 12:30 Lunch with the Ordinary, the Franciscan and the Papal suite at the Franciscan convent of Nazareth.
- 15:50 Meeting with Prime Minister of Israel at the Franciscan convent of Nazareth.
- 16:30 Meeting with the religious leaders of Galilee at the auditorium of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
- 17:00 Visit to the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
- 17.30 Celebration of Vespers with the Bishops, priests, religious, ecclesial and pastoral movements of Galilee in the upper Basilica of the Annunciation in
- 07:30 Private Mass in the Chapel of the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem.
- 09.15 Ecumenical Meeting in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
- 10:15 Visit to the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
- 11:10 Visit to Saint-Jacques Armenian Apostolic Church in Jerusalem.
- 13h30 Departure ceremony at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.
- 14.00 Departure from Ben Gurion airport (Tel Aviv) to Ciampino airport (Rome).
- 16h50 Arrival at Ciampino (Rome).
The Pope will depart from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 9.30 a.m. on 8 May, landing at Queen Alia airport in the Jordanian capital, Amman, at 2.30 p.m. At
3.30 p.m. he is due to visit the city's "Regina Pacis" Centre, then make a courtesy visit to the Jordanian monarchs at the al-Husseinye royal
On the morning of Saturday 9 May he will visit the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo, and bless the cornerstone of the
Patriarchate of Jerusalem's Madaba University.
Having visited the Hashemite Museum and the Mosque of al-Hussein bin Talal in Amman, he will meet with Muslim religious
leaders, the diplomatic corps and rectors of Jordanian universities. Later that day he will preside at the celebration of Vespers with priests, religious,
seminarians and ecclesial movements in the Greek-Melkite cathedral of St. George in Amman.
On the morning of Sunday 10 May the Holy Father will celebrate Mass and pray the Regina Coeli at the international stadium in
Amman. That afternoon he is scheduled to visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan, site of the Lord's Baptism, where he will bless the cornerstones of the Latin and
On Monday 11 May, having celebrated Mass in private at the apostolic nunciature in Amman, he will travel by plane to Tel
Aviv, Israel, where the welcome ceremony is due to take place at 11 a.m. in the city's Ben Gurion airport. That afternoon he will make a courtesy visit to
the president of Israel at the presidential palace in Jerusalem. Subsequently he will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial and hold a meeting with organisations for
On Tuesday 12 May he will visit the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem and meet the Grand Mufti. He will also
visit the Western Wall and meet with the two Chief Rabbis of Israel at the Hechal Shlomo Centre. At midday he is due to pray the Regina Coeli with ordinaries
of the Holy Land in the Cenacle of Jerusalem and to make a brief visit to the co-cathedral of the Latins. That afternoon he will celebrate Mass in the Valley
At 9 a.m. on Wednesday 13 May the Holy Father will deliver an address on the square in front of the presidential palace in
Bethlehem then celebrate Mass in Manger Square at 10 a.m. At 12.30 p.m. he will lunch with the ordinaries of the Holy Land, the Franciscan community and the
papal entourage at the Casa Nova monastery in Bethlehem
That afternoon, following a private visit at 3.30 p.m. to the Grotto of the Nativity, Benedict XVI will travel to the Caritas
Baby Hospital and, shortly thereafter, to the Aida Refugee Camp, where he will deliver an address. At 6 p.m. he will make a courtesy visit to the president of
the Palestine National Authority in the presidential palace of Bethlehem, after which the departure ceremony will take place on the square in front of the
At 10 a.m. on Thursday 14 May the Pope will celebrate Mass on the Mount of Precipice in Nazareth. At 3.50 p.m. he will meet
the Israeli prime minister in the city's Franciscan convent, and at 4.30 p.m. greet religious leaders of Galilee in the auditorium of the Basilica of the
Annunciation, where he will pronounce an address. Later he will travel to the Grotto of the Annunciation where at 5.30 p.m. he will preside at Vespers with
bishops, priests, religious, ecclesial movements and pastoral workers.
On Friday 15 May the Pope will celebrate an early private Mass in the chapel of the apostolic delegation to Jerusalem, then
attend an ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. After this he will visit the Holy Sepulchre and the Armenian patriarchal church of St. James
Following the departure ceremony at Ben Gurion international airport in Tel Aviv, the papal plane is due to take off at 2
p.m. bound for Rome where it is expected to land at Ciampino airport at 4.50 p.m. Roman time.
Vatican releases details of papal trip to Holy
Mar 28 09 8:58 AM
In Jordan on 9 May Benedict XVI will visit the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo, the Mosque of al-Hussein bin Talal in Amman, and bless the cornerstone
of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's Madaba University. On the following day he will travel to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, site of the Lord's
The Holy Father will arrive in Israel on Monday 11 May. After the welcome ceremony he will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem and hold a
meeting with organisations devoted to inter-faith dialogue.
On Tuesday 12 May, he will visit the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem and meet the Grand Mufti. He will then visit the Western Wall and
meet Israel's two Chief Rabbis. In the afternoon he will celebrate Mass in the Valley of Josaphat.
On Wednesday the Holy Father will travel to the Palestinian Territories. In Bethlehem he will celebrate Mass in Manger Square and in the afternoon
visit the Grotto of the Nativity. After that he will visit the Caritas Baby Hospital and the Aida Refugee Camp, before returning to Jerusalem.
Papal trip to the Holy Land rich in
Jerusalem Patriarchate publishes prayer for papal trip to Holy Land
CNA - The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has published a prayer of preparation for Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Jerusalem May 8-15, during which he will
visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Jordan. According to the L'Osservatore Romano, the prayer implores the Lord for "a time of renewal and
particular grace" for this region afflicted by conflict. The prayer will be translated into seven languages: Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, English, French,
Polish and Portuguese.
The text of the prayer is:
"Lord Jesus, history has always had in the Successor of Peter a guide and a pastor who has shown the way to fulfilling the will of the God the
Father. We entrust to you these months of preparation for the visit of our Pope Benedict. Give us your Holy Spirit that we might know how to prepare
ourselves in prayer so that this visit may be a time of renewal and particular grace for the Holy Land."
"Lord Jesus, history has always had in the Successor of Peter a guide and a pastor who has shown the way to fulfilling the will of the God the
Father. We entrust to you these months of preparation for the visit of our Pope Benedict. Give us your Holy Spirit that we might know how to prepare
ourselves in prayer so that this visit may be a time of renewal and particular grace for the Holy Land."
generosity in Good Friday collection for Holy Land
Marathon to link Jerusalem with Rome coinciding with papal visit to Israel
CNA - A marathon will link the cities of Jerusalem and Rome between April 23 and May 27, thus coinciding with Pope Benedict XVI's May 8-15 visit to
The initiative, organized by the John Paul II Foundation, was presented Wednesday in Rome. The objective is to commemorate the 2000 year anniversary of the
birth of St. Paul as part of the Pauline Year.
The race will appropriately follow the steps of St. Paul, running through some of the places where the Apostle to the Gentiles went to preach.
The entire route will cover some 1,300 kilometers through five countries: Israel, Greece, Malta, Italy and Vatican City. The marathon will begin on April
23 in Bethlehem and end at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on May 27.
The last stage, which will be in Rome, will be accompanied by several side events, including a prayer vigil at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
and a greeting by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Square...
Marathon to link Jerusalem with Rome coinciding with papal visit to Israel
Mar 30 09 2:43 AM
Ynet news - Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel in about a month and-a-half is already causing concern among those who fear that the strict
security measures around the pontiff would prevent access to holy sites in Jerusalem.
Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch has already approached the police on the matter and demanded that free access to the Wall and the Mount of Olives is
maintained throughout the high-profile visit.
Responding to reports that Benedict's planned stay in east Jerusalem and his scheduled visits to the Old City and the Western Wall are expected to lead
to the closing of major routes in the city, Rabinovitch said: "It's inconceivable that the pope's visit would hurt worshippers at the Western
Wall, some of whom have been praying there daily."
Meanwhile, residents of the Old City's Jewish Quarter announced this weekend that should the police decide to limit access to the Western Wall during
the visit, they would stage a protest at the place in response. Gabi Sheinin, one of the Quarter's residents, stated: "Just like the visit of a chief
rabbi at the Vatican doesn't cause the Vatican to shut down, we expect the same approach when the pope visits a place holy to the Jewish people."..
'Pope's visit won't stop us from praying at Western Wall'
Mar 31 09 4:53 PM
Visas for Church personnel
It took a very great deal of heavy international pressure to induce the Ministry to start issuing such visas once more, and when it did, it was on
noticeably worse terms than ever before. Meanwhile scores of priests and men and women religious were reduced to the status of "illegal
aliens", several were stopped in the street by immigration police, and none could risk leaving the country, for whatever reason, for fear they might not
be allowed back in. The "visa" question, a series of difficulties and recurrent "crises" has never actually been properly resolved, and now
there is concern in ecclesiastical circles that it may become, once again, even more acute. The hope is, of course, that this will not actually happen, and
that instead the issue will be settled by an agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel. Such agreement has been on the agenda of negotiators for
the two sides since their 1993 Fundamental Agreement, but other issues have had to be dealt with first.
Israelis too, especially the well-educated and the more secular Israelis (the "elites", as they are called by right-wing populists) are
welcoming the new government with expressions of worry and not much expectation of progress on peace with Israel's neighbours, particularly the
Palestinians. Incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu has famously refused to speak of a Palestinian State, even as a long-term goal, let alone as a subject of
actual peace negotiations with the Palestinians. This is why Israel's largest party, Kadimah, the party of outgoing Prime Minister Olmert and outgoing
Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni, has declined his invitation to join the governing coalition. Olmert and Livni have been speaking for some time now
of the need to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories which began in 1967. ...
Benedict XVI's visit
The feeling in Israel is that the season of actively seeking peace, the "peace process", which was inaugurated by the 1993 "Oslo
accords" is now definitively over. This is reinforced by the renewed prospects, on the Palestinian side, of "reconciliation" between President
Abu Mazen's Fatah movement and the Hamas organisation, which rejects the "Oslo agreements" and with them, the possibility or desirability of a
definitive peace with Israel.
This is the context in which the Holy Land is awaiting the arrival, in May, of Pope Benedict XVI. In 2000 John Paul II came into a Land that was
believed to be on the cusp of a definitive end to the bloody conflict between the two Nations that call it home. Then was a time of great hope
and high expectations. Very little of that remains. Yet precisely in this present time of disillusionment and anxiety, the Pope's witness to Him Who is our
Peace is surely more urgently necessary than ever.
Netanyahu, peace problems and the
Mar 31 09 4:58 PM
May 14 is Israel's Independence Day (celebrated according to the Jewish rather than the Gregorian calendar), recalling the declaration of the State of
Israel in 1948. For Palestinian Arabs the following day, May 15, is a day of mourning, "Disaster (Naqba) Day." It has gone unmentioned that
Pope Benedict's Holy Land pilgrimage falls on just these days. On May 15, the final day of his visit, the pope will share a podium in Israel's capital
Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
The pope's appearance in Jerusalem with Israel's head of state on Naqba Day underscores his commitment to the State of Israel. From the
founding of the State of Israel to 1993, when the Vatican at length established diplomatic relations with the Jewish State, the Holy See has had to balance its
commitment to Middle Eastern Christians with its efforts to improve relations with the Jewish people. Christians endured in the birthplace of their religion
under Muslim rule as a dhimmi, or subject people, anxious to avoid giving offense to the far more powerful majority.
With the advent of the State of Israel and the hostile Muslim response, dhimmitude became less viable. It is estimated that thirty-five percent of the
Christians in the West Bank and Gaza have emigrated since the 1967 war, mostly in response to harassment by radical Islamists. Although Arab Christians have
suffered at the hands of Muslim militants who oppose the existence of the Jewish State, many of them blame the Jews for rousing the Muslim militants in the
Well before the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1993, then Cardinal Ratzinger repeatedly explained to Jewish representatives that the
delay in diplomatic recognition solely reflected the concern of the Holy See for the vulnerable Arab Christian communities. His pilgrimage this May devotes
considerable time to pastoral meetings with the Arab Christian community. Nonetheless, Benedict has made clear that his concern for Arab Christians is embedded
within an unwavering commitment to the Jewish community in the Holy Land.
It is hard not to see an evolution in Vatican policy towards Israel, from a pragmatic approach to the problems of religious constituencies, to explicit
theological sympathy for the Jewish State. Benedict XVI is first of all a theologian, and he views the Jewish presence in the Holy Land as a theological
In 2008, on the fiftieth anniversary of Israel's independence, Benedict XVI told Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, "The Holy See is united
with you and thanks God for the full realization of the Jewish people's aspirations to live in its homeland, the land of its forefathers." Meeting
with the Israeli rabbinate on March 12, the Pope affirmed the election of the Jewish people "to communicate to the whole human family knowledge of and
fidelity to the one, true and unique God." Theologically it is difficult to separate the election of the people from the promise of the land, and
Benedict's commitment to Israel seems strongly grounded in theology.
The Magisterium of the Church does not take an explicit position on the question of Jewish statehood. Officially, the Catholic Church instructs, "The
existence of the State of Israel and its political options should be envisaged not in a perspective which is in itself religious, but in their reference to the
common principles of international law," in the formula given in "Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and
Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church" (1985). But the Church also knows that Israel is more than just another small country like Finland or Ecuador,
for the very next sentence of the 1985 document cites John Paul II's recognition of the theological significance of Jewish survival: "The permanence
of Israel (while so many ancient peoples have disappeared without trace) is a historic fact and a sign to be interpreted within God's design. . . . It
remains a chosen people, 'the pure olive on which were grafted the branches of the wild olive which are the gentiles.'"...
Benedict XVI and the State of Israel
Apr 6 09 11:45 AM
Apr 6 09 8:48 PM
Fraction of money promised to secure pope's visit received, Public Security Minister says
By Yaakov Lappin
The Finance Ministry has so far provided only a small fraction of the funds needed to secure the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in May, a source from the Public
Security Ministry said on Monday.
The relatively small amount of money that has been made available is being diverted away from security and towards the needs of local authorities seeking to
improve infrastructure ahead of the pope's arrival, the source told The Jerusalem Post.
Just NIS 5 million of the NIS 43m. promised by the Olmert government to secure the visit have been transferred so far, Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharanovtich said during a government meeting on Sunday.
The pope is scheduled to arrive in Israel in on May 11 and depart on May 15. Government ministries, the police and the General Security Service (Shin Bet)
have drawn up a wide-ranging plan to prepare for the occasion.
"When they [the Finance Ministry] say the money is needed for infrastructure, and for fixing roads in Upper Nazareth, the money ends up with local
authorities, and it does not go to securing the pope," the source said.
Israel hopes pope helps image, brings cash
NAZARETH, Israel (AFP) - The din of earthmovers and a cloud of dust rise over Mount Precipice as workers scramble to get ready for a papal visit that Israel
hopes will bring in tourist dollars and rave reviews.
The Jewish state is pumping some 10 million dollars (7.5 million euros) into preparations for Pope Benedict XVI's May 11-15 visit to the Holy Land that
will bring tens of thousands of pilgrims to Israel.
It also hopes the papal trip will help polish Israel's international image in the wake of the Gaza war.
Israeli authorities hope the pope's visit will boost the number of foreign tourists in Israel, which already reached a record three million last year,
one third of them pilgrims.
"The government at very short notice has invested a lot of time and money in the success of this visit," says Raphael Ben-Hur, a deputy
director-general of the tourism ministry.
Tzvi Lotan, a marketing director at the ministry, says "we want the papal masses in Jerusalem and Nazareth to be the best in the world," a
references to the liturgies the pope will celebrate before tens of thousands of faithful.
Apr 8 09 1:21 PM
According to Franciscan Brother Fabian of the Franciscan Archaeological Institute, during his May 10 visit, Pope Benedict will be provided with a platform
to gaze over the promised land as Moses is believed to have done.
The Pope will also be given a tour of the delicate and intricate renovation going on at the site and bless the work on the church, which dates back to the
4th century and hosts a series of intricate mosaics.
His predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II, recognised the site in a landmark visit in 2000.
In the upcoming papal visit, scheduled May 8-12, Pope Benedict is also expected to visit the Baptism Site and King Hussein Ben Talal Mosque, and to hold an
outdoor mass at Amman Stadium in Sports City.
According to Fabian, Italian engineers are set to meet at the church later this month to determine the course of the restoration work, adding that the
institute is awaiting shipments of materials from Italy for the structure's roof.
The church's renovation is expected to be completed and opened to tourists by the end of this year, he noted...
Mount Nebo prepares for Pope visit
Apr 14 09 12:36 PM
The user-friendly mini-site will be available in seven languages and feature background information, photographs and video
footage related to Christian holy sites in Israel as well as detailed information on the Pope's itinerary and trip highlights.
The website will also include links to travel agents offering classic pilgrimage tours and Christian itineraries.
For more information on Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Israel visitwww.holyland-pilgrimage.org. For more information on travel to Israel
live-PR.com - A new website has been launched to mark the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Jordan.
The Jordan Tourism Board, which created the multimedia website, said it is designed to commemorate this historic visit and pilgrimage and offer various
information and news related to the Pope, to His itinerary, and to Jordan and its magnificent religious and touristic sites and locations.
JTB Managing Director Nayef al-Fayez expressed great happiness at launching the new website and said "it was created to welcome His Holiness to the cradle
Al-Fayez said that from the dawn of history, numerous civilizations and cultures have left a priceless collection of thousands of archaeological treasures
scattered throughout the country. "Jordan is also the main theatre of landmark events in the history of the three great monotheistic religions, making it
the home of dozens of locations which mark the lives and times of prophets, holy men, disciples, and followers," al-Fayez added.
The new JTB website has been launched in 6 languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic . http://www.visitjordan.com/pope
The site has information on Pope Benedict XVI, as well as Pope John Paul II, who paid a special visit and pilgrimage to Jordan in 2000, during which he
officially recognized the Baptism Site at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan on the eastern banks of the River Jordan.
The Baptism Site, which will be visited by Pope Benedict XVI, is among the many religious sites in Jordan highlighted in the new website. The multimedia
website also includes a video about Jordan as a biblical destination, and will offer a special live broadcast of the Pope's activities during the His visit
from Jordan Television. Also available in the site is an animated photo gallery, the visit's official schedule, as well as news and press releases about
Apr 15 09 2:10 PM
"We will ask him why he came, what he intends on saying to the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims and why he isn't coming to Gaza," said Father
Manuel Mussalem, of Gaza's sole Catholic Church that counts a mere 200 or so members.
"We'll tell him that this is not the right moment to come and visit the holy places, while Jerusalem is occupied," he added.
Along with the rest of Gaza's Palestinians, the territory's Christians have faced increasing hardship over the past several years as the tiny
coastal strip has been swept by violence and an ever-tightening Israeli blockade.
An estimated 2,500 members of all Christian denominations live amid 1.5 million Muslims in a territory that has been controlled by the Islamist Hamas
movement for nearly two years, and they face special dilemmas.
After dozens of Christians have left Gaza to seek better opportunities abroad in recent years, residents say the territory should have been included on the
itinerary of a pope who, Vatican officials say, has set encouraging Christians to remain in the Holy Land as a goal of his trip.
"We would have liked it if he came here," said Rania Mikhail, 32, a student of English at the Holy Family school. "We are happy that he is
coming to Palestine, but what can he do for us?
"We want him to do something for Gaza, not only for the Christians, but also for the Muslims who are living in this prison. We would have liked him to
come to Gaza since no one pays attention to what happens to us."
When Benedict announced in early March that he would visit the Holy Land in May to pray "for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East
and for all of humanity," many Gaza Christians were not pleased.
They urged the pontiff to shun Israel in protest at its December-January onslaught on impoverished Gaza that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.
Papal visit bittersweet for Gaza Catholics
Apr 17 09 12:32 AM
Ten Hard Facts Confronting Benedict XVI in the Holy Land
By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D.
The world's oldest Christian community -- the Christians of historic Palestine -- will be gone within two generations
if the Church does not act to protect them.
WASHINGTON (Inside Catholic) - The Holy Father, his entourage, and the international media are preparing to visit the Holy Land May 8-15. Pope Benedict XVI
will undoubtedly encourage further peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
But the prospect of a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict has become more remote, as the situation on the ground is constantly changing. Here are the
facts as they stand now, and which will confront the Holy Father when he arrives in Amman, Jordan on May 8:
1. The world's oldest Christian community -- the Christians of historic Palestine -- will be gone within two generations if the Church does not act to
2. Estimates show that more than 10 percent of the Palestinian Christian community on the West Bank has immigrated in the last five years alone. There is a
corresponding number of Palestinian Christians leaving from towns like Nazareth and East Jerusalem located within Israel.
3. Tension with Muslims is not the primary reason for the exodus -- only 11 percent of Palestinian Christians cite it as a reason for immigration. In fact,
these communities have historically coexisted peacefully, along with indigenous Jewish communities, for centuries before the birth of the modern Israeli
Apr 17 09 1:45 PM
Here's one striking wrinkle, however, by way of a "dog that didn't bark" dynamic: Despite the fact that Benedict XVI is now 82 years old,
there's been virtually no drumbeat this week about papal succession. By the time John Paul II turned 82 in May 2002, speculation about what might come next
was very much in the air, fueled by the pope's visible decline.
The absence of talk about the papal horserace is probably the best measure of Benedict's essentially robust health. The buzz in Rome is that we could be
looking at another Leo XIII, who died in 1903 at the age of 93.
Of course, God alone knows what the future holds, but for now it's full steam ahead. In fact, Benedict XVI is approaching what is likely to be not only
a defining moment of his pontificate, but also one of the most important news stories of 2009, and not just on the religion beat: his May 8-15 trip to Jordan,
Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.
In the run-up, comparisons inevitably will be drawn with John Paul II's dramatic March 2000 voyage to the Holy Land, when the Polish pope, who grew up
in the shadow of Auschwitz, stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and left behind a handwritten note apologizing for Christian anti-Semitism. Benedict
XVI's visit may or may not feature a similar iconic image, but at the level of substance, there's arguably even more at stake this time around. (This
despite the fact that organizers have taken great pains to emphasize the trip is not "political," and to frame it primarily as a spiritual pilgrimage
for an 82-year-old pontiff who will probably never have another chance to visit the land of the Bible.)
The following are five storylines destined to run through the trip, illustrating why it's worth getting a head start on pondering its prospects.
Ties between Catholicism and Judaism were badly frayed by the recent fiasco involving the lifting of the excommunications of four traditionalist Catholic
bishops, including one who is a Holocaust-denier. The Vatican has repeatedly insisted that the gesture did not signal a rollback in relations, but many Jews
still have their doubts - especially because it came hard on the heels of a similar eruption in 2007, when Benedict XVI authorized wider celebration of the old
Latin liturgy that includes a controversial Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews. (The latest irritant on that front came just last week. The German
chapter of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, to which the four reinstated bishops belong, insisted upon praying the classic version of the Good Friday
prayer, which refers to the "blindness" of the Jews, and not the version issued by Benedict XVI in February 2008 that removed much of the contested
Also lurking in the background are on-going disputes over the memory of Pius XII, the wartime pope sometimes accused of "silence" during the
Holocaust, as well as over the tax and juridical status of church properties in Israel. The Vatican formally recognized Israel in 1993, with assurances that
side agreements on these matters would follow. More than fifteen years later, the two sides have yet to nail down a deal.
More broadly, Catholic/Jewish relations today stand at a crossroads. The pioneers of dialogue on the Catholic side, many of whom felt a personal commitment
to improving ties with Judaism because of their memories of the Holocaust, are passing from the scene. Leadership in Catholicism is increasingly coming from
Africa, Latin America and Asia, where Judaism is not generally a significant demographic presence. Moreover, Catholics in the global south often don't have
the same sense of historical responsibility for the Holocaust as Europeans, which they tend to see in terms of Western, rather than Christian, guilt. While
these leaders recognize the Biblical roots of the Christian/Jewish relationship, they often don't feel the same biographical commitment to it, nor do they
have the same experience of regular interaction and personal friendships with Jews.
As a result, there's a risk of drift in Catholic/Jewish dialogue, especially as other relationships - Islam above all - come to loom larger in the
Catholic mind. Benedict XVI thus faces the challenge of laying an enduring foundation for the relationship, and of persuading Jews around the world that the
Catholic church is serious about it.
At this level, probably the most-watched moment of the trip will come on May 11, when Benedict XVI visits the renowned Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem in
Jerusalem. In what many will see as a reminder of the tensions that plague the relationship, the pope will not enter the museum at Yad Vashem, which contains a
placard critical of Pius XII to which the Vatican has long objected.
When Benedict XVI lands in Jordan on May 8, it will be his first visit to an Arab nation and his first to a predominantly Muslim country since Turkey in
late November/early December 2006. As it turned out, the Turkey trip became a kiss-and-make-up exercise in the wake of the pope's famous September 2006
speech in Regensburg, Germany, which inflamed sentiment across the Muslim world because of its incendiary citation of a 14th century Byzantine emperor with
some nasty things to say about Muhammad, the founder of Islam. The iconic image from Turkey was Benedict XVI standing inside the Blue Mosque,
shoulder-to-shoulder with the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, for a moment of silent prayer in the direction of Mecca.
Because the Turkey trip was hijacked by damage control, Jordan offers Benedict his first real opportunity to lay out his vision of Catholic/Muslim relations
while on Islamic turf. That vision goes under the heading of "inter-cultural dialogue," and it boils down to this: Benedict XVI believes the real
clash of civilizations in the world today runs not between Islam and the West, but between belief and unbelief. In that struggle, he believes Christians and
Muslims should be natural allies. As a result, he has deemphasized the fine points of theological exchange - how Christians and Muslims each understand
atonement, for example, or scripture. Instead, his priority is a grand partnership with Muslims in defense of a robust role for religion in public affairs, as
well as shared values such as the family and the sanctity of life. ...
Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land
Though Europe may be the cradle of Christendom, the Holy Land is where it all began. At a psychological and spiritual level, it's impossible to
overstate the significance of holy places such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth for the Christian imagination. Moreover, the presence of Christian
communities in those locations creates a natural bridge among the three great monotheistic religions. Especially for Christian/Muslim relations, having a group
of Christians who speak Arabic and who know the situation on the ground is invaluable.
Those realities make the present "exodus" of Christians out of the Holy Land a source of deep angst for the pope and other Christian leaders. The
numbers are stark: In 1948, at the time of the partition, Christians amounted to 15-20 percent of the population in what was to become Israel and the
Palestinian Territories. Today, the Christians are estimated at less than 2 percent. There are more Palestinian Christians living in émigré communities in
Europe, Canada, the United States and Australia than in Palestine itself.
The Vatican and the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
Catholicism is unique among world religions in that it has its own diplomatic corps, and aspires to act as a voice of conscience in global affairs. Beyond
that humanitarian logic for engaging in the peace process, the Vatican also feels a direct stake in the outcome, seeing it as key to preserving what's left
of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
Benedict will have a chance to see the human face of the conflict up close, visiting a Caritas-operated hospital for infants on May 13, as well as the
fifty-year-old Aida Camp, with a population of more than 3,000 long-term refugees.
On that level, perhaps the key difference between the visits of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is that back in the spring of 2000, the prospects for peace
seemed far brighter. When John Paul touched down in March, preparations were already underway for the Camp David Summit in July, when Arafat and then-Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Barack walked up to the brink of a deal. Benedict, meanwhile, arrives on the other side of Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza, as
well as the election of a new government in Israel whose foreign minister who has cast doubt on the very idea of a two-state solution.
Further complicating Benedict's peace-making effort is the Vatican's reputation among many Israelis as less than a fair broker. Officially, the Holy
See is even-handed: it supports the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to sovereignty and security, and calls for an "internationally guaranteed
special status" for the holy places that does not prejudice the question of whether Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel, a Palestinian state, or
This trip may be pope's last chance to see the land
of the Bible
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Apr 23 09 9:17 AM
Apr 24 09 1:07 PM
Kasper outlines Pope's 'political' mission to the Holy Land
The political aspect of Pope Benedict's coming visit to the Holy Land is of prime importance, according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and head of the Vatican commission for relations with Jews. The cardinal will accompany the Pope on the 8-15
May visit, said this was because conflict in the region is the "mother of many other conflicts in the world today".
Interviewed by the German Catholic Press Agency last week, the cardinal said the Holy Land visit would be "quite different" from Pope
Benedict's other visits abroad to date and he expected it to be one of the most difficult."Both the political and the church situation in the Middle
East are anything but easy. A balance will have to found between the Pope's encounter with Israel and the Jews on the one hand, and with the Christians,
who for the most part live in the Palestinian territories, on the other. A difficult task - but all the more necessary for that," he said.
Thorough preparation was a must, he insisted, and the groundwork was in full process. "We affirm the state of Israel and maintain diplomatic relations
with it, and our relationship with the Jews has improved enormously. On the other hand we must do justice to the Palestinian Christians, who do not have an
easy life. The Holy See is in favour of a two-state solution but that does not seem so important to the Israeli Government at the moment. The diplomatic
high-wire act will therefore be not to accept any false compromises," Cardinal Kasper emphasised.
The Tablet - The Pope's visit had several aims, he said. One was to stabilise relations with the Jews after the difficulties that had arisen of late.
Recent papal overtures to the Lefebvrists and Pope Benedict's revised Good Friday prayer issued last year have all caused concern among Jews. Relations
with Islam also needed to be stabilised, Cardinal Kasper said. The Pope would be visiting a mosque in Jordan and would also meet Muslims in Jerusalem. Dialogue
has been established since the Pope gave his controversial Regensburg lecture in September 2006, but tensions still exist.
Ecumenical relations were also important, Cardinal Kasper said, as the Pope would encounter practically all the separated Christian denominations in
Jerusalem. "And the Pope will on no account forget Catholic Christians. He will be meeting them in Bethlehem - which is more or less walled-in today, and
saying Mass in Nazareth," he added.
Asked what he expected from the visit as far as the Church's relationship with Judaism was concerned, Cardinal Kasper said that as the Vatican had
"good personal contacts", it had been "relatively easy" to iron out the recent difficulties within one or two weeks and to "calm
things down", which proved that Catholic-Jewish relations were stable. "There is great interest on the Jewish side, not only among politicians, but
also on the part of Orthodox Jews, to meet the Pope and put relations on a stable track permanently," he said...
Kasper outlines Pope's 'political' mission to the Holy Land
From John Allen -
Benedict XVI's visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories May 8-15 is likely to offer an object lesson in the ancient wisdom that "you
can't please everyone." Several behind-the-scenes tensions currently percolating illustrate the point.
A Vatican official told me this week that e-mails have arrived in Rome complaining that the pope has not put the Gaza Strip on his itinerary, as a gesture
of solidarity with people suffering from the recent conflict. Vatican diplomats point out that popes generally steer clear of such hot spots, on the grounds of
not making an already volatile situation worse. Moreover, even if the pope were inclined to act as a human shield, the question would be why he picks one
conflict over another. (If he went to Gaza, critics might wonder why he didn't stop in Darfur during his recent trip to Africa.) Despite that, it's
possible that some may read the fact the pope is not going to Gaza as a deliberate omission, as a missed opportunity, or worse.
Second, there's a difference among Palestinian Christians, and their supporters and émigré communities abroad, concerning how much the pope should say
about the "exodus" of Christians out of the Holy Land. Some want the pope to hit the theme hard, both as a reflection of the reality (Jordanian
Catholic Rateb Rabie, who runs the Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation in the Washington, D.C., area, told me there are just 50,000 Christians left in the
Palestinian Territories, compared to 700,000 living abroad) and as a way of pressuring all parties to make peace. Others, however, worry that too much
hand-wringing about an "exodus" may demoralize the Christians who are still in the Holy Land, and render the Christian presence in the region's
societies even more invisible.
As an example of the latter view, I spoke by phone on April 18 with Fr. Rif'at Bader, a Jordanian priest of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, who's
handling communications for the papal visit.
"We don't like to talk about the numbers, but about presence," Bader told me. "Christians are still present, they're well-educated,
and they have an important role in the economy, in political life, in the academy . . . Too much focus on the numbers is dangerous, because it's
In still other quarters, there's ambivalence about the very idea of the trip, based on concern about its impact on efforts to negotiate a deal with
Israel on the legal and tax status of church properties -- something that was supposed to be settled in 1994, after Israel and the Holy See launched diplomatic
relations, but which is still unresolved 15 years later. Here's a concrete example: In Caesarea, a Catholic shrine was destroyed in the 1950s, and today
local Catholics want the site returned so they can rebuild a place of worship. There are also concerns about visas for Christian clergy, especially since the
new Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu has entrusted the Interior Ministry to the religious Shas Party. (The last time a Shas member controlled the
ministry, there was a complete embargo on entry and residence permits for church personnel.)
Prior to this spring, the Vatican line appeared to be that there would be no papal visit to Israel until a deal on such matters was reached. The Vatican
spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, said in December 2007 that "along with general conditions of peace, there should be positive signs on
relations with the Holy See."
Some fear that having secured a papal visit, the Israelis may feel less pressure to strike a bargain. On the other hand, a senior Vatican official told me
Wednesday that if the trip were conditional on resolving all outstanding disputes, it might never happen -- and for a pope who's now 82, as this official
put it, you can't tell him, "Give it three years and we'll see."
For perspective on this point, I went on Tuesday to the Villa Massimo, the Rome headquarters of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, to speak with Fr.
David Jaeger, the custodian's delegate. Born to Jewish parents in Tel Aviv, Jaeger converted to Christianity and became a Franciscan priest. He's long
been a lead negotiator for the Vatican in its talks with the Israeli government.
"I trust that the Holy Father's visit will serve to confirm the centrality of the treaty-based relationship in Israel," Jaeger said, adding
that this is a relationship involving "the Holy See, the worldwide Catholic church and the Jewish state."
In the context described above, the significance of the phrase "treaty-based" should be obvious.
Finally, there's anxiety among some local Catholics that the pope's itinerary is a bit too "politically correct," top-heavy with
diplomatic, inter-faith and ecumenical events, potentially at the expense of the local church. For example, Benedict is not scheduled to visit any Christian
sites in Galilee, and he is also not planning to say Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, restricting himself to a visit and speech. (John
Paul II celebrated Mass in the Holy Sepulchre during his March 2000 visit.) Given the fierce jostling among different Christian denominations over claims to
the Holy Sepulchre, some may be tempted to read Benedict's decision as a concession.
Like John Paul before him, Benedict will also visit a site associated with John's baptism of Jesus which lies on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River,
and which is promoted as a tourist destination by the Jordanian government. Yet there's also a rival site on the Israeli side where Christian churches have
been attracting pilgrims for centuries, but where access is now complicated by Israeli military zones. A papal visit to these traditional sites, some local
Catholics believe, could be of enormous help. In part, the concerns are economic: whichever site the pope visits may get a leg up in the scramble to attract
* * *
Another possible irritant on the trip could be fallout from the April 20-24 Durban Review Conference, the U.N.-sponsored World Conference Against Racism.
Based on concerns that the conference was biased against Israel, a number of countries, including the United States, either boycotted or sent only low-level
delegations. Those worries seemed confirmed when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to Israel as "totally racist" and accused the
Israelis of carrying out "ethnic cleansing in Gaza."
The Holy See took part in the conference, but Vatican officials have been engaged in a full-court PR press this week to ensure that Israel doesn't take
it the wrong way.
On Monday, the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement obviously intended to distance the Vatican from Ahmadinejad and his
"In itself, the conference is an important occasion for carrying forward the struggle against racism and intolerance. The Holy See took part for this
reason, and intends to support the efforts of international institutions to take steps forward in this direction," Lombardi said. "Naturally,
statements such as that of the Iranian president do not move in the right direction, because, even if he did not deny the Holocaust or the right of Israel to
exist, he used expressions which are extremist and unacceptable. For this reason, it's important to continue to clearly affirm respect for the dignity of
the human person against every form of racism and intolerance."
On Wednesday, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, headlined a story on Durban, "The Holy See deplores the use of the forum for taking
extremist positions offensive to any state."
In an interview on Thursday with Corriere della Sera, the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, said that had
Ahmadinejad repeated past comments questioning the Holocaust during his speech in Geneva, "We too would have made a different decision."
"We're very careful to assess the situation, especially because the pope is going to Israel as a sign of great affection toward the country,"
Tomasi said, adding that he had taken part in a Holocaust commemoration ceremony this week in Geneva.
Nonetheless, for Israelis suspicious of a pro-Palestinian bias in the Vatican, a photograph out of Benedict XVI's General Audience on Wednesday probably
won't help. At the end of the audience, the pope stopped to chat briefly with a group of young Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem, representing a parish
the pope plans to visit. One young woman put a keffiyeh, the classic Palestinian headdress, around the pope's shoulders. Fairly quickly, the pope's
private secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, removed it -- but the keffiyeh was on Benedict long enough for a photographer to get the shot. One imagines it will
make the rounds.
Vignettes from Rome
Apr 25 09 11:29 PM
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