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pope in Holy Land among MidEast Tensions

(ANSAmed) – VATICAN CITY – A difficult trip, and risks of
being exploited: ”everyone is ready to take the best part of
the pie that this visit represents,” said the Latin
Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal with resignation.
Benedict XVI will depart tomorrow for the Holy Land, which he
already visited in ’64, ’92, and ’94. It will be his first
visit there as Pope, following Paul VI in ’64 and John Paul
II in 2000. Now, just like in the past, the Pope in the Holy
Land is immersed in an intricate situation of political,
historical, and inter-religious scenarios, and today the
Middle East is in a decidedly delicate phase. Taking on a
burden of this nature at the age of 82, despite being advised
against doing so even by local Christians following Operation
Cast Lead, the Pope has explained on more than one occasion
recently that he has precise reasons for his visit: ”to
confirm and encourage Christians in the Holy Land, who must
face many difficulties on a daily basis” and allow ”them to
feel the closeness and the support of the entire Church”;
making himself ”a pilgrim of peace in the places where
Christ was born, preached, and died”; contributing to the
strengthening of ”ecumenical and inter-religious”
relations, and relations between Jews and Muslims, which, he
observed yesterday, have made ”great progress”.
In Jordan, a country that is strongly committed to the
search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Christians are an integrated minority, and inter-religious
dialogue will attract attention there. The Pope will have his
first important meeting on this mission in Amman with Muslim
leaders. The Hashemite Dynasty has been credited by the
Vatican for giving an impulse to direct Islam on a common
path of peace, and Prince Ghazi, the King’s religious
advisor, is among the promoters of the letter from 138 Ulemas
to Christian leaders who, in the autumn of 2007, contributed
to engaging in dialogue based on its contents and archived
the crisis of Regensburg. More risks for the papal mission
may be presented by the Israeli political scenario, where
there are many Palestinian Christians and where the solution
to the conflict supported by the Holy See, the two-state
solution, with both populations living in justice and safety,
has not managed to take shape. The new government of Benyamin
Netanyahu allied with the far-right has seemed to prevent the
peace process, and is also looked upon with suspicion by
moderate Al Fatah Palestinians, and seems far from the Obama
administration’s ideas for the Middle East. The governments
of the countries of the Holy Land are awaiting the Pope with
open arms, and the Israeli government has put all Jewish
controversy with the Vatican aside, including opinions on
Pius XII and the Williamson case, in order to guarantee the
success of this trip. Benedict XVI does not intend to be a
political mediator: ”I will be a pilgrim of peace in the
name of the one God who is the Father of all,” he explained
publicly, ”and I will be evidence of the Catholic Church’s
commitment in favour of those making efforts to engage in
dialogue and reconciliation, to arrive at a stable and
long-lasting peace and reciprocal respect.” Judaism in the
world could gain some satisfaction due to the Pope’s visit to
the Western Wall, where Benedict XVI will pray, and meet with
the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Christians in Gaza, where Hamas
is the majority, are disappointed because the Pope is not
stopping in their city due to security reasons, but about one
hundred Gaza residents will attend the mass in Bethlehem on
Wednesday the 13th. (ANSAmed).