Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rabbi Jacob Neusner weighs on on Pope Benedict's upcoming pilgrimage to Israel

In an interview for a major European periodical next week, Rabbi Jacob Neusner commented on Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to Israel -- Tzvee's Talmudic Blog has the complete details. Here's just a snippet:
What is your main expectation?

Pope Benedict XVI has shown the capacity to speak bluntly to the world at large, as his address at Regensburg last year showed. He does not dissimulate or mince words. I expect that he will speak truth to all parties and preserve a balanced and just position for all concerned. That is his record, At the same time the Roman Catholic Church has its interests in the Middle East, which will be on the Pope's mind. The Moslem countries do not accord to Christianity the rights of free expression that they demand and get from the Christian countries. The Pope is likely to pursue that matter too.

In what sense would this trip be a failure?

If one party claims to have been vindicated and the other party claims to have been dismissed unfairly, the imbalance would mark a disaster, because that moral authority that is the Pope's strength will have been wasted,

In what sense would this trip be a success?

If both parties are helped to find steps toward the path to peace in response to the Pope's presence, that will mark success.

* * *

Above all this trip is a pilgrimage. How do you see it, as rabbi and Jewish intellectual?

When a century ago Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism, turned to the Pope for support for a Jewish state, he was told that until the Jewish people converted to Christianity, the Church would do nothing to establish a Jewish state. Papal visits to the state of Israel - this is not the first and will not be the last - repudiate that original decision and affirm the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish state. It is always important to recognize the implicit statement represented by the Pope's pilgrimage.

What is the main stake from an inter-religious perspective?

The relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the aftermath of Vatican II has defined the task of reconciliation and this visit represents a step toward the realization of amity between the two religions.

Click here to read the rest of Rabbi Neusner's interview on the papal pilgrimage.

If the name sounds familiar, it's because Rabbi Neusner's biblical commentary featured prominently in Pope Benedict's bestselling Jesus of Nazareth (2007).

Also, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he heralded Neusner's book A Rabbi Talks With Jesus (1994) as "by far the most important book for the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade" -- probably one of the few Jewish books that could boast a blurb by Fr. Andrew Greeley AND the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on its cover! (Jesus of Nazareth, in fact, could be read in part as a response to the arguments made by Professor Neusner in his own book).

More recently, in contrast to a largely negative outcry from Jewish critics, Rabbi Neusner distinguished himself by defending the Pope's editorial revisions to the Good Friday "Prayer for the Jews" in 2008.

More about Rabbi Jacob Neusner

An Israeli boy visits the graves of his great grandparents, killed in Israel's 1948 war of independence, at the military cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem April 28, 2009. Israel on Tuesday marks Memorial Day to commemorates its fallen soldiers. (Reuters)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Pope dons a Keffiyeh.

In his latest column, John Allen Jr. points to a curious incident that befell the Pope this week:
... 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.
The keffiyeh is a traditional headdress for Arab men, "made of a square of cloth (“scarf”), usually cotton, folded and wrapped in various styles around the head" (Wikipedia); however, since at least the 1930's, it has become a trademark for Palestinian nationalism -- initially as a symbol of insurrection against the British and later popularized by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Since then it has been appropriated -- consciously in some cases, ignorantly in others -- by Westerners.

Chronicling its transition from political to fashion statement, see Kibum Kim's Where Some See Fashion, Others See Politics New York Times February 11, 2007.

Understandably, when donned by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church at the invitation of two Palestinian Christians, it was going to provoke a reaction.

Personally, I think this amounts to the public relations equivalent of John Paul II's infamous "kissing of the Koran" -- a case where the Pope accepts a gift and follows protocol suitable for the time, but in turn is taken entirely out of context.

In the case of John Paul II, upon receiving a delegation of Muslims he was presented with a gift of the Muslim Koran, which he kissed as a sign of respect (this is traditional practice in the Middle East). Images, however, can speak louder than words, and the photograph of John Paul II is quite compelling. As expected, his actions were imbued with greater meaning than they actually possess: many Catholic 'traditionalists' and anti-Catholic apologists found John Paul II's "bowing before the false god of Allah" good fodder for their screeds.

In like manner, Benedict's donning the kafiyeh, if even for a few seconds, may provoke a similar reaction -- not a few sympathizers to the Palestinian cause will relish the image as a sign of papal solidarity with their cause; conservative critics will beg to differ.

Some of the latter, I think, tend to go a bit overboard -- writing for Atlas Shrugs, Pamela Geller fulminates:

The keffiyeh was Yaser Arafat's swastika and became a powerful symbol of jihad. In the ensuing years, the keffiyeh as an icon of anti-Americanism, anti-semitism and anti-westernism took on a life of its own ...

Just because the Pope pretends not to recognize the uniform does not mean it is not a uniform. The keffiyeh was the signature of Yaser Arafat and is the signature of Hamas and Hezbollah and the homicide bomber. Pretending it's just a scarf is like pretending the klan's white robe is a toga. Symbols mean something. Attempting to mainstream it, in effect softening its barbaric message, is an affront to every victim of Islamic jihad and the war we are engaged in.

The bigoted anti-Catholic remarks issuing from Gellar's readers speak volumes ("Once a Nazi, always a Nazi"?!?) -- thanks to fellow Catholic Friend of Israel reader Carlos Echevarria for attempting to inject a little reason and sanity into the discussion.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pope Benedict's 2006 Regensburg Address - A Refresher Course

Since the topic is bound to come up (and has in fact already), a refresher course on Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg Address appears to be in order. The Boston College Center for Jewish-Christian Learning provides a helpful compilation of links and commentary on the Regensburg lecture, including the following summary:
On Sept. 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave an academic lecture in Regensburg, Germany that argued for both the reasonableness of faith and that faith divorced from reason can produce behaviors contrary to God's will. In this context, Benedict cited the opinion of a fourteenth-century Byzatine emperor that "not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature." The emperor had illustrated his claim about unreasonable religious behavior by discussing the use of violence to coerce conversion, ascribing such practices in polemical terms to Islam, and this language was quoted by Pope Benedict.

The lecture sparked international protests in many Islamic countries. The protestors had apparently concluded or were advised that Benedict himself believed Islam to be, in the quoted words from the fourteenth-century, "only evil and inhuman." Since the papal lecture did not include any examples of unreasonable Christian behavior or reiterate formal Catholic teaching from the Second Vatican Council that the Church regards Muslims with esteem, the likelihood of unintended negative interpretations of the speech was increased. On the other hand, some of the protests in the Muslim world themselves bordered on violence or used symbolic violence, thereby reinforcing the caricature of Islam as inherently violent that the Pope was being accused of purveying. On Octber 12, Islamica magazine published a response to the papal lecture from 38 Muslims scholars and leaders.

Those accustomed to reading about the address only in the context of the ensuing "Regensburg Rage" -- a rash of violent Muslim protests, culminating in the murder of a nun in Somalia and the kidnapping and beheading of an Assyrian priest in Iraq -- will be suprised to discover that only a small portion of it actually touched on Islamic-Christian relations (approximately 3 paragraphs).

Rather, Pope Benedict's focus was not so much on Islam but rather an even greater indictment of the program of dehellenization that played out in Western academia following the Reformation and the liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and which led to the "modern self-limitation of reason," -- confining itself to that which is scientifically (mathematically and emperically) verifiable, and dismissing as irrelevant "the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics."

For helpful analysis of the more substantial portion of Benedict's address, see:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rift in Jewish-Vatican relations over Durban II

Reuters reports that Pope Benedict's decision to send a Vatican delegation to a United Nations conference on racism has opened a new rift in relations with Jewish groups:
"By participating, the Vatican has given its endorsement to what is being prepared there (against Israel)," Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

The United States and some of its allies, including Italy -- a country which often sees eye-to-eye with the Vatican at international conferences -- are boycotting the meeting.

Shimon Samuels, head of the European office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said the Vatican "is giving a seal of approval in the hate campaign" against Israel.

"This is not a position on which one can hedge," Samuels said. "You can't have it both ways. The Vatican is a powerful voice and (a boycott) could have had a strong demonstrative effect."

As if on cue, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime", prompting the walkout of European diplomats (Wall Street Journal April 21, 2009):
Mr. Ahmadinejad, in his rambling speech Monday, castigated the U.S. and Europe for acting after World War II to make "an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering," according to an English translation of the speech released by the AP. He said the West used Jewish suffering as a pretext for hostility against Palestinians.

Protesters in clown wigs interrupted his speech with shouts of "Shame! Shame!" and "Racist! Racist!" and threw red clown noses at the Iranian president, the AP reported.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is expected to run for a second term in elections this summer, may have been playing more to his audience back home, in a region where Israeli policies toward the Palestinians are widely condemned.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the chief Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told Catholic News Service by telephone April 20 it was important for people not to be distracted by the remarks of the Iranian president:

Archbishop Tomasi said much more significant than Ahmadinejad's speech were the real advances made in the draft conference document, which recognizes the Holocaust as something not to be forgotten and condemns anti-Semitism as well as intolerance against other religions. The text under consideration in Geneva has been revised in recent months, and the latest draft does not include references to Israel or Zionism.

The archbishop said it was also essential for the international community to give attention to the new forms of racism and discrimination that are emerging, especially against immigrants, the indigenous and the economically marginalized.

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told Vatican Radio April 20 that "statements like those of the Iranian president do not go in the right direction, because even if he did not deny the Holocaust or the right of Israel to exist, he expressed extremist and unacceptable positions."

"For this reason it is important to continue to affirm with clarity the respect for human dignity against every form of racism or intolerance. We hope the conference can still serve this purpose," he said.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Deal Hudson on Israel and Palestinian Christians, Revisited

In his latest article for InsideCatholic.com, Deal Hudson presents Ten Hard Facts Confronting Benedict XVI in the Holy Land concerning the plight of Palestinian Christians.

One would expect that -- when presenting a list of "hard facts", particularly a topic as provocative as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- elementary journalistic standards would require the citation of a source.

Furthermore, one might expect the placement of such statistics in context to further enable a moral evaluation.

That Hudson completely neglects to do this is frustrating, to say the least.

Consequently, we have such indictments as

"Palestinians have been the subject of frequent attack [by Israel] -- often with civilians and their homes in the direct line of fire"
Such a statement, on its face, leaves out notable mitigating factors. Taking the most recent case of Gaza, for instance, Hudson could have mentioned Hamas' penchant for deliberately locating its troops and rocket positions in close proximity to civilians, even so far as housing weapons in schools and within its own mosques.

Other factors which might be brought to bear in the evaluation of Israel's targeting of Palestinians in civilian-populated areas is that Israel sought to warn civilians prior to impending attacks via Arabic-language voice mails on their cell phones, urging them to vacate homes where militants had stashed weapons. (Conversely, Hamas displayed complete disregard for civilian welfare, to the point of hijacking ambulances).

Again, Hudson states that:

"Israel's 21-day incursion into Gaza left an immense humanitarian crisis: More than 50,800 Gazans were left homeless; 80 percent of the population are now dependent on assistance"
But certainly at this point, might our appraisal of this fact be influenced by the knowledge that, even while Israel was fighting to protect their own cities against Hamas' rockets, they were bringing assistance to citizens of Gaza impacted by the conflict?

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example, provides regular weekly reports on humanitarian aid to Gaza during the IDF operation and increased humanitarian aid to Gaza following the IDF operation as well.

In a February 2009 post ("Dispatch from the border of Gaza"), Michael Totten wrote about his tour of a temporary field hospital set up by the State of Israel at the Erez Crossing at the northern end of Gaza:

Palestinian civilians who needed medical attention were invited to come to Erez for treatment by Israeli doctors.

Humanitarian goods facilitated by the IDF also went through Erez into Gaza throughout the conflict, and the crossing was open to Palestinians with dual nationality who wanted out.

“We were asked by the government and the Ministry of Health to operate this regional medical clinic,” an Israeli doctor told me. “We've put everything here we can provide in a first-line clinic. It's not a hospital. We won't be able to operate here. But we need a humanitarian clinic to treat patients who need medical assistance.” [According to the Jerusalem Post, the clinic "offered not only medical specialists but also x-ray facilities, a lab and a pharmacy, meant to treat about 50 patients at once - both wounded Palestinians and those suffering from physical ailments"]. [...]

The Israelis had to close the place down. Only a handful of patients ever came through, which didn’t surprise me. I didn’t see any Palestinian patients there when I visited. Hamas didn’t allow their wounded to be treated by Jews.

Consider also, for instance, that the blog Elder of Zion together with PTWatch have documented 86 some terrorists killed by the IDF that have been reported as "civilians" by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (the source of statistics cited by Hudson in his prior article).

All the more reason to regard "facts" -- and the mere citation of statistics absent of context -- with caution.

* * *

According to Hudson:

"Tension with Muslims is not the primary reason for the exodus -- only 11 percent of Palestinian Christians cite it as a reason for immigration."
With all due respect, I have reasons to approach this statistic with some skepticism. Most curiously, Hudson himself has previously cited (approvingly!) the work of Justus Reid Weiner, an international human rights lawyer who has made the plight of Palestinian Christians a subject of personal research. You can read an interview with Weiner here; a monograph, Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society is available for free download as well.

Weiner speaks of "intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycotts, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion" -- not, however, at the hands of Israel. (See the aformentioned links for documentation).

According to Weiner:

[Over a 10 year period] my research assistants and I have interviewed scores of Christian victims. Many of those interviewed were too terrified to tell their stories. In an effort to reassure them, I promised to conceal their real names, professions, and places of residence.

Suffice to say this doesn't strike me as an opportune environment for a persecuted minority to register open complaints about their condition. In fact, says Weiner, the silence and suppression of Palestinian Christians remain the norm when it comes to such persecution:

Weiner says he became aware of the many crimes against Christian Arabs under the Palestinian regime when, ten years ago, a Christian lay pastor said to him, "You're a human rights lawyer, what are you doing for the Christian Arabs?" Weiner replied that he was not doing anything for them as he was not aware they had any problems. The pastor then said: "Let me send you some people to interview and once you've done that make up your own mind."

Weiner remarks: "That began my education process on this subject. The problem I had the most difficulty understanding was why the large, powerful, populous Christian world has permitted this to go on for so long. This is the more surprising as the PA is in such need of funds and political support. Ten years down the road I can only say that it is a sad testimony for contemporary Christianity.

"I discovered a wide gap between the Palestinian Christian leadership and their flock. The former tended, for many years, to put on their nice robes and hats to meet Arafat for religious occasions. They are the same people who keep touring around the United States and being feted in different locations where they repeat the false story that everything is fine.

"These patriarchs and archbishops of Christian Arab denominations who are currently deceiving the international community are self-interested people. They collaborate with the Muslim perpetrators of intimidation and violence. Against all evidence they claim that the Christians Arabs are living comfortable and prosperous lives. In fact the present situation is growing worse by the day."

The numerous incidents of Muslim persecution told by Weiner stand in stark contrast to the testimony of, say, Michael Sabbah (former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem 1987-2008), who in a December 2003 interview dismissed such accounts:

Is it difficult being a Christian Palestinian in a predominantly Muslim and Jewish land?

Christians are part of Palestinian society, and the Palestinians are Christians and Muslims. No one is going to flee because of Islamic influence, but because of the lack of work, or the political tension provoked by the curfew. But there is no Muslim persecution of Christians, and in fact they share the same hope of one day having an independent state.

Don’t you see a desire on the part of Muslims to dominate and convert other faiths?

Just a moment. This isn’t easily understood in the West. We Palestinians know how to live together and how to understand this relationship. We are one people, even if there are some difficulties.

But aren’t you isolating the case of the Palestinians? This isn’t a relationship that is easily exported. To find Christians who are persecuted it’s enough just to look at Vatican reports. Think of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq.

In Arab countries there is no persecution of Christians. I don’t speak of Pakistan, but in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon—no. Historically there have been some massacres, beginning when Europe entered the Mideast. ...

Not even any effort at the conversion of Christians?

There’s always that, but much of it is social pressure, that’s all. Nowadays we cannot say there is persecution. There are problems of the majority and minority, disputes of a social nature. These governments are very vigilant about relations between Muslims and Christians. There’s a lot of propaganda in the West; I don’t know why. Let us live in peace and don’t foment fear, it’s fear that weakens us. Our vocation is to live among Muslims and to give testimony to Jesus in a Muslim society. It’s difficult, but we accept it.

Rod Dreher, a journalist and [Orthodox] Christian blogger, conveyed his own first-hand encounter with the self-imposed censorship of Palestinian Christian prelates in 2005:

When I was in the Holy Land covering John Paul's visit, I spent time talking to Palestinian Christians. They have hard lives, no doubt about it, and all blamed Israel. But a funny thing happened when I put my notebook away after one of these interview sessions. The Christians with whom I was speaking suddenly started talking about how terrified they were of the Muslims, and said how life would be far worse for them if the Islamists took power within the PA. They wanted me to know that, but did not want me to quote them. They (correctly) saw things as hopeless all around for Palestinian Christians, and just wanted to move. There are no Christian suicide bombers, but the Christians have to pay the price for what the Muslim suicide bombers do. And so forth.


At my newspaper a couple of months ago, the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, a Palestinian, came by for an interview with the editorial board. It was pathetic to watch. He was dhimmi-ized through and through. Couldn't bring himself to condemn anything Muslims did. Everything was the fault of the Israelis. If a Muslim blew himself to bits and killed scores of Israeli civilians in so doing, that was Israel's fault. No, there is no enmity between Muslims and Christians there, he insisted; we have always gotten along wonderfully, couldn't be better, he said.

I couldn't figure out if he was lying to himself, or to us. But when he said that Abraham wasn't Jewish, well, that just took the cake.

Weiner concedes that Israel does bear some responsibility for the situation and cites several issues (which Hudson raised in his article), such as visa restrictions which hamper foreign and local Christian clergy from traveling between parishes, and "economic hardship and unemployment is caused by the cutoff from outside aid due to Israeli security measures that bar most Palestinians from working inside Israel."

Nonetheless, to reiterate my prior post: any moral evaluation of the restrictions on movement imposed by Israel must take into account the reasons why they were established and imposed in the first place.

There is no disputing that life would be easier for Palestinian Christians and their counterparts if Israel were to dismantle the checkpoints and the security fence. But such a removal would, of course, be predicated upon the willingness of organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to disavow terrorism.

And that's something Hudson hasn't actually addressed.

* * *
In closing, perhaps as an incentive to further discussion, permit me to pose some questions:

What do you anticipate would happen, were Israel to suddenly dismantle its security measures -- the checkpoints? the security fences?

How would Palestinians react? -- Fatah? Hamas? Islamic Jihad?

Noting that the Vatican has itself formally recognized the State of Israel, is such a recognition incumbent on Palestianian Christians and their Muslim counterparts?


Durban II

Teresa Polk @ Blog By The Sea blogs a helpful roundup of the 2009 Durban Review Conference, a follow-up to the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WCAR). Teresa notes that:
The first WCAR in 2001 had an anti-Israeli agenda, driven by Iran, with a final draft of a declaration labeling Zionism as racist. The 2009 final draft of the declaration has removed all anti-Israeli references and all references to the Middle East.
The Vatican has sent a personal representative to the conference (to which Benedict XVI lent his personal support). At the same time, the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Israel have declined to attend.

Point / Counterpoint

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Interview with Fouad Twal on Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land

The website of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land features an interview with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, in which he responds to many questions that have been arisen concerning the Pope's impending journey.
  • Responding to the concerns of Palestinian Christians:
    The worries – I would even say, the anguish – are in part legitimate, but I want to underline that they were – and still are here and there – felt by the Arab Christians living in the Territories and in Jerusalem. The reality of the Christians who live in Israel, and all the more so that of the Christians of Jordan is an entirely different one; they see the pope’s visit in a different light. In a diocese that lives extremely differing realities, we must try to have a more global vision of this visit and to consider it in all its dimensions: political and social and human and religious.
  • On whether the Holy Father should have waited "for a better time", in light of the Israeli-Palestianian conflict in Gaza:
    So what should be done? Wait for better times? But this region is never at peace! Wait until the Palestinian question is resolved? I’m afraid that two or three sovereign pontiffs will pass before it is definitively settled.

    It’s the story of the glass that is half full or half empty… Some say: “The situation is difficult, so it would be better if he didn’t come.” Others on the contrary say: “The situation is difficult, so it would be better if he came.” And that is our position. During these difficult times, I want the Holy Father to come to help us to “superare”: to go beyond, to see further.

    The pope is coming to visit all the Churches, all the people who live in the Holy Land in order to encourage us to remain faithful to our mission, to our faith, and to our awareness of belonging to this Land.

  • On Israel's expected use of the visit for public-relations:
    Israel will do all it can to present its country in the best light. I understand that, it is its right.

    It is not our task to criticize or to denounce what the others do. Our job is to do our part to make the visit as pastoral as possible; it is our responsibility to do our part so that our Christians might have the possibility to see the Holy Father, to pray with him and to hear his message of peace and of justice for all. If one studies all the messages published by the Holy See concerning the Holy Land, Iraq and the Middle East, one can see that we have an unheard of capital of addresses, support, interventions that are rich in humanity, the Christian spirit and justice. There is no doubt that the Holy Father will continue in this sense during his visit to the Holy Land.

    It falls upon us, the local Church, to watch over the program’s equilibrium: the sites to visit, the persons to meet, the addresses to be made. It is our job “to give the Holy Father a helping hand”.

  • On relations between Israel and the Vatican:
    It is difficult to find a good balance and to maintain it. Having said that, the more the Vatican is a friend of Israel’s, the more it will be able to draw profit from that friendship for greater peace and justice. If the tension continues between the universal Catholic Church and Israel, we will all lose, we Christians and we Arabs. On the other hand, if Israel trusts the Holy See entirely, based on that friendship, the Holy See will be able to speak of truth, of justice and of peace. For with the language of friendship, it is possible to say things to one another that one would refuse to hear if it came from an enemy.

    Being friends and speaking as such is good for everyone: for the friend, for Israel, and for the others. I just hope that the Holy See’s friendship with Israel is reciprocal.

Read the rest of Fouad Atwi's interview with Marie-Armelle Beaulieu.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan objects to Papal visit, insists that Pope Benedict define his stance on Islam and Muhammad

Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan have objected to Pope Benedict's visit, insisting that he define his stance on Islam and Prophet Muhammad ahead of his arrival:
The spokesperson of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the visit meant little, if anything, to him.

“The pope hates Islam and Muslims. I do not expect anything from his visit,” said Raheil Gharayba, who is also the deputy secretary general of the IAF, the most influential political party in the [Jordanian] kingdom.


“His position on the Gaza War was shameful, after failing to condemn the genocide by Israel on innocent civilians," said Gharaybeh.


President of the Muslim Brotherhood Shurah council, ‘Abd A-Latif ‘Arabiat, said the pope was “welcome in the country of Islam, but he must send a clear message to the hard-line government of Israel,” referring to the right-wing cabinet of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ...

“The visit should not be seen as a vindication of Israel and the Zionist movement from their war crimes in Gaza,” said ‘Arabiat.

“The Pope is not welcome in the kingdom,” he added.

Earlier in the year, a human rights organization funded by the Jordanian government urged the Pope to cancel his visit to Israel, warning that "it will be as if he is blessing its actions in Gaza."
"We respectfully request Your Holiness to call-off your intended visit to Israel next May. Such a gesture by your high moral authority will certainly send a loud and an unambiguous message to set free the Palestinian people from their captivity which has been going on since the year 1967."
By all appearances, the Holy Father is not one to submit to intimidation; his visit to Israel is still on the agenda.

On a related note, the Jerusalem Post reports that Islamic Movement in Israel is split over pope's May visit:

The northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel has announced that it is "boycotting" Pope Benedict XVI's visit next month, while an official from the more moderate southern branch said it intend to participate in the event.

However, there was no indication that the northerners plan to protest his arrival or try to block the pontiff's path to al-Aqsa Mosque, which he is scheduled to visit.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Israel and Jordan launch new websites dedicated to Papal visit

The Israel Ministry of Tourism will launch a new website dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI’s first Papal visit to the Holy Land on April 15th.

The user-friendly website 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.

For more information on Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Israel visit www.holyland-pilgrimage.org.

* * *

The Jordan Tourism Board has likewise devoted a section of their website www.visitjordan.com/pope in commemoration of the historic visit, available in six languages.

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.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Should Pope Benedict visit Gaza? - A response to Deal Hudson

In February, a group of Palestinian Christians asked Pope Benedict XVI to call off his planned visit to Israel and the West Bank, concerned that his visit would "help boost Israel's image and inadvertently minimize Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation." (Haaretz).

Adopting a different approach, Ma'an News Agency reports that a petition raised by the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, the University of San Francisco, and several other U.S. peace organizations asking Pope Benedict XVI to make a stop in the Gaza Strip has received over 2000 signatures.

In a recent post to InsideCatholic.com, Deal Hudson raises the question: Should Benedict XVI Include Gaza in his Holy Land Visit? -- answering in the affirmative:

[A]dding Gaza to the papal visit to the Holy Land would indeed send a message to all concerned, including Hamas, which some Christians fear was strengthened by the three-week Israeli offensive. Benedict XVI could visit Holy Family Parish in Gaza City, where Msgr. Manuel Musallam and his parishioners lived through the bombing that began on Dec. 28 and the ground invasion a week later on Jan. 3, 2009. Msgr. Musallam and his parish minister to the 200 Catholics remaining in Gaza (there are approximately another 3,000 Christians, most of whom are Greek Orthodox.)


The visit of Benedict XVI will be viewed by the Christians living in the Holy Land through the lens of 1417 deaths in Gaza, including 313 children, during the 22-day Israeli campaign. With the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, Christians in Bethlehem expressed fear that their city could become another Gaza. “We already live surrounded by walls and check points. Why shouldn’t we think that what happened in Gaza could happen to us?” said a young woman in her mid-twenties who comes from one of the oldest, and most prominent, Christian families in Bethlehem.

Palestinian Christians will be deeply disappointed and demoralized if Benedict XVI simply repeats the itinerary of John Paul II. “There will be bad consequences for the Church if he does this,” Abu Zuluf told me. He did not explain this comment, but when I asked an American priest who had lived near Bethlehem for over a decade he related it to a comment he heard from a Christian woman in Bethlehem. She said to him, “Tell the Holy Father not to lose his dignity when he comes here.”

Readers familiar with my opinions on the Israeli-Palestianian conflict will likely be surprised to note that I am, in fact, in tentative agreement with Hudson: I think that a Papal visit to Gaza -- taken as an expression of solidarity with the Christian communities there -- may be a good thing.

This is not to say, however, that I have some concerns -- both with Hudson's reasons for taking the stance as he does, as well as issues involving the proposal itself.

Questionable Statistics

In citing the casualties from Israel's campaign to prevent rocket attacks from Gaza, Hudson links to a Reuters article which in turn relies upon the findings of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. The numbers cited by this source have been heavily disputed by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) and the official accounting of the IDF:

According to the data gathered by the Research Department of the Israel Defense Intelligence, there were 1166 names of Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead. 709 of them are identified as Hamas terror operatives, amongst them several from various other terror organizations. Furthermore, it has been found that 295 uninvolved Palestinians were killed during the operation, 89 of them under the age of 16, and 49 of them women. In addition, there are 162 names of men that have not yet been attributed to any organization.
It is disconcerting, then, that Hudson simply takes the Reuters' / PCHR figures at face-value without any qualification.

"Harsh restrictions on movement"

According to Hudson, the problem with retracing the steps of Pope John Paul II is that the Holy Land has changed dramatically since 2000:
Ever since the uprising (Second Intifada) that followed the visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in September 2000, the West Bank has been in a state of lock-down enforced by hundreds of miles of security walls, checkpoints, settlements, settler roads, and harsh restrictions on freedom of movement.
It is indeed lamentable that "Palestinian Christians have virtually no access to the holy sites in East Jerusalem, Galilee, and Nazareth"; that students in religious classes of Bethlehem University are routinely denied visas to travel outside the city, or that Gazan students are prevented from attending school in Bethlehem. Nonetheless, any moral evaluation of these admittedly-difficult conditions would have to take into account precisely WHY these "harsh restrictions on movement" are enforced -- and that is a lengthy discussion Hudson's article does not go into.

For example, it is a fact that the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal cited "freedom of movement for priests and religious between these regions is a primary pastoral concern" and declared: "it’s time to put an end to the Wall, the Checkpoints, it’s time for a Palestinian State, it’s time for an end to our problems with visa’s." No doubt Hudson would concur.

But any discussion of the moral relevance of Israel's Wall should take into account that approximately 75 percent of the suicide bombers who attacked targets inside Israel came from across the border where the first phase of the fence was built; that since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%.
During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003.
and that the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has admitted to the fence as an effective deterrent to suicide-bombing.

All of course, at the cost of "harsh restrictions on movement."

Oppressed by Israel?

One aspect of the plight of Palestinian Christians is glaringly absent from Hudson's latest article: the fact of the persecution of Arab Christians by Muslim extremists. Hudson relays the fears of a Christian resident of Bethlehem over the election of "right winger" Benjamin Netanyahu. But what might also be contributing to the precarious situation of Christians in Bethlehem? -- An article in the UK's Daily Mail in 2006 speaks of "the sense of a creeping Islamic fundamentalism" pervading the city:
[Bethlehem's] Christian population has dwindled from more than 85 per cent in 1948 to 12 per cent of its 60,000 inhabitants in 2006.

There are reports of religious persecution, in the form of murders, beatings and land grabs.

Meanwhile, the breakdown in security is putting off tourists, leading to economic hardship for Christians, who own most of the town's hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. ...

Bethlehem's hotel owners estimate that tourist numbers have dropped sharply, from 91,276 each month for the millennium celebrations in 2000 to little more than 1,500 a month now.

During the past six years, 50 restaurants, 28 hotels and 240 souvenir shops have closed.

Samir Qumsieh is general manager of Al-Mahed - Nativity - which is the only Christian television station in Bethlehem.

He has had death threats and visits from armed men demanding three acres of his land - and he is now ready to leave.

"As Christians, we have no future here," he says.

(See also: "Bethlehem Christians fear neighbors" Jerusalem Post 2007).

What is confusing is that Arab persecution of the Palestinian Christians is something of which Hudson is undoubtedly aware. In 2007, he blogged about this very issue, noting international human rights lawyer Justus Reid Weiner's observation that
"The systematic persecution of Christian Arabs living in Palestinian areas is being met with nearly total silence by the international community, human rights activists, the media and NGOs."
Hence the confusion over his latest article, which presenting a nearly one-sided picture of Israeli oppression.

On this topic, see: Returning to the question of whether Pope Benedict XVI should visit Gaza, I think that -- taken as an expression of solidarity with the Christian community -- it may be a positive thing.

My concern would chiefly be one of security -- to whom would be entrusted the security of the Pope? Is the controlling authority (Hamas) demonstrably reliable in ensuring the Pope's safety? Or in cooperating with Israel in this regard?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Preparing for Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel and the Holy Land (Roundup II)

  • Catholic News Service says that Pope Benedict XVI will encounter a Holy Land that has changed greatly since Pope John Paul II visited in 2000 -- characterized by Israeli-Palestinian tensions; bickering Palestinian political factions; communities divided by a 2002 separation barrier to prevent terrorist attacks, and a recent war between Israel and Hamas:
    Pope Benedict will face a land torn asunder and scarred by the violence and physical barriers of the second intifada, which broke out just months after the 2000 papal visit. He will stand before people who have lost hope in the future and no longer trust their politicians, and he will see precarious economies still reeling from the effects of the intifada and feeling the sting of the current international economic downturn -- still waiting for the additional influx of pilgrims and tourists they dreamed of following the earlier papal visit. ...

    Though Pope Benedict has insisted, as did Pope John Paul, that his visit is a spiritual pilgrimage and not meant as a political statement, both Israelis and Palestinians say they have expectations ranging from bringing about a renewal of the stalled peace talks, bringing an economic boost to the area with an influx of pilgrims, helping refocus international attention on the political situation and initiating a spiritual strengthening of the local Catholic faithful.

  • Christian tourism to Israel has increased by 17 percent since Pope John Paul II visited nine years ago, the Israeli Tourism Ministry said on Thursday (Jerusalem Post):
    ... the number of Christian visitors who defined themselves as pilgrims shot up a whopping 43% over the last eight years, with more than one million in 2008 - more than half of the Christian visitors - calling themselves pilgrims.
    Suffice to say they're hoping for a similar response from Benedict's papal visit.

    However, in an update to this story, Haaretz reports that the department has modified (and somewhat reduced) its expectations of a high turnout - "About 10,000 Christian pilgrims are expected to come to Israel in May during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, significantly fewer than the "over 40,000" that Tourism Ministry officials spoke about less than a month ago."

  • According to the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land, preparation for Benedict XVI's Holy Land visit is advancing the relationship between the Holy See and Israel, though formal agreements are still pending:
    The article noted that although this Papal trip will not conclude the pending agreements between the Holy See and Israel, the friendly atmosphere the visit has generated is serving to advance towards that objective.

    The agreements currently being negotiated, within a bilateral commission of Israeli and Vatican negotiators, will govern the legal status of the Catholic Church in that country. This follows the Fundamental Agreement, signed in 1993, which established the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel.

    In recent months, the committee's meetings have made such progress that it was believed the negotiations might be concluded on the occasion of the Papal visit.

  • The Washington Times reports on Nazareth's competition with Jerusalem and Bethlehem for papal attention, and preparations for the visit:
    "We are building new roads, expanding our electrical grid to Mount Precipice and laying pipes to convey water to the stadium," said Suheil Diab, an aide to the mayor. "There will be seats for 7,500 people and space for the more than 35,000 on the surrounding grounds."

    A new extension of a modern highway will lead directly to the stadium atop Mount Precipice. A helicopter pad is being leveled next to the stadium and another near the Basilica of the Annunciation.

    An estimated $5 million promised to the municipality by Israel's government is expected to cover the cost of 25 infrastructure projects. "The work under way is nearing completion," Mr. Diab said.

    The article also mentions security concerns (a local Muslim extremist group known as "Ahbab Allah" -- "God's Beloved" -- is still smarting from having construction halted on their mosque over a decade ago); and that "at this stage, the papal schedule does not call for stops at most of the historic shrines associated with Jesus' youth in Nazareth." (The Pope will, apparently, enter the residence of the Holy Mother, located in a cave below the Basilica of the Annunciation).

  • Haaretz reports that The Jesus Trail, a Galilee path that supposedly traces the route of Jesus, will be completed in time for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI next month.

  • According to YNet News, during Benedict's visit to Jerusalem, he'll take time out to visit the city's Time Elevator site, and get to inaugurate its new attraction – the Aerial Odyssey:
    The Aerial Odyssey is an aerial adventure in which visitors get to fly over Israel and gain a unique new perspective as the past and present of this land are revealed.

    During the journey, visitors are exposed to a variety of natural and human treasures, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else. The ride shows the people, the places and the religions that make up the holy land.

Pope Benedict XVI's Urbi et Orbi - appeals for peace in the Middle East

If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.
-- Pope Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi ("To The City And The World") Easter 2009.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Daniel Pipes on "The Palestinians who helped create Israel"

Daniel Pipes on The Palestinians Who Helped Create Israel (CatholicExchange.com March 24, 2009):
Palestinians have so loudly and for so long (nearly a century) rejected Zionism that the Mufti Amin al-Husseini, Yasir Arafat, and Hamas may appear to command unanimous Palestinian support.

But no: polling research finds that a substantial minority of Palestinians, about 20 percent , is ready to live side-by-side with a sovereign Jewish state. Although this minority has never been in charge and its voice has always been buried under rejectionist bluster, Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has uncovered its surprisingly crucial role in history.

He explores this subject in the pre-state period in Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (translated by Haim Watzman, University of California Press); then, the same author, translator, and press are currently preparing a sequel, Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948–1967, for publication in 2010.

In Army of Shadows, Cohen demonstrates the many roles that accommodating Palestinians played for the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in the Holy Land. They provided labor, engaged in commerce, sold land, sold arms, handed over state assets, provided intelligence about enemy forces, spread rumors and dissension, convinced fellow Palestinians to surrender, fought the Yishuv’s enemies, and even operated behind enemy lines. So great was their cumulative assistance, one wonders if the State of Israel could have come into existence without their contribution. ...Read More

Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (UC California Press, February 2009)

Inspired by stories he heard in the West Bank as a child, Hillel Cohen uncovers a hidden history in this extraordinary and beautifully written book—a history central to the narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict but for the most part willfully ignored until now. In Army of Shadows, initially published in Israel to high acclaim and intense controversy, he tells the story of Arabs who, from the very beginning of the Arab-Israeli encounter, sided with the Zionists and aided them politically, economically, and in security matters. Based on newly declassified documents and research in Zionist, Arab, and British sources, Army of Shadows follows Bedouins who hosted Jewish neighbors, weapons dealers, pro-Zionist propagandists, and informers and local leaders who cooperated with the Zionists, and others to reveal an alternate history of the mandate period with repercussions extending to this day. The book illuminates the Palestinian nationalist movement, which branded these "collaborators" as traitors and persecuted them; the Zionist movement, which used them to undermine Palestinian society from within and betrayed them; and the collaborators themselves, who held an alternate view of Palestinian nationalism. Army of Shadows offers a crucial new view of history from below and raises profound questions about the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen on Israeli-Vatican Relations

Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen of Haifa is speaking out on the sensitive discussions between the Israeli rabbinate and the Vatican in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s May visit to the Holy Land. David Bedein reports for the Philadelphia Bulletin:
Rabbi Cohen said the Pope went out of his way to make it clear the Vatican would never question Israel’s sovereignty, nor challenge its rights to rule over the Old City of Jerusalem. Between 1949 and 1967, the Old City remained under Jordan’s Islamic rule, and Jews were barred from entering it.

He said both himself and other Israeli rabbis are open to Pope Benedict’s idea of establishing an inter-religious council where all of the religions represented in the Holy City could be called together to discuss both the practical and spiritual aspects of Jerusalem’s present and future.

The rabbi also discussed the warm interpersonal relations that developed between the rabbis and the Vatican officials. ... read more.

In October 2008, Rabbi Cohen had the honor of becoming the first Jew to address a synod of Catholic bishops at the at the Second General Congregation of the Bishops’ synod on the Bible.

Regretfully, Rabbi Cohen also raised the provocative question of Pope Pius XII:

“We refer to him as ‘the Holocaust Pope,’” said Rabbi Cohen. “Although he may have helped individual Jews, he did not fulfill his role to protest the mass slaughter of Jews. Rabbi Cohen expressed the view that if the Vatican does claim that Pope Pius XII did extraordinary things to help the Jews during the war, then the Vatican should open its archives to provide documentation of such.”
With all due respect, we beg to differ with this assessment of Pius XII, and firmly maintain that an examination of the facts will vindicate his name.

For further details see our online archive: Pope Pius XII, the Jews and the Holocaust.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel & the Holy Land - Intinerary

Here is the detailed itinerary as released by the Vatican. All times are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses (courtesy of Catholic News Service).

Friday, May 8 (Rome, Amman)

  • 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci International Airport.

  • 2:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m.) Arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. Welcoming ceremony. Speech by pope.

  • 3:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m.) Visit to the Regina Pacis center in Amman. Speech by pope.

  • 5:40 p.m. (10:40 a.m.) Courtesy visit to the king and queen of Jordan at the royal palace in Amman.
Saturday, May 9 (Amman, Mount Nebo, Madaba)

  • 7:15 a.m. (12:15 a.m.) Private Mass in chapel of apostolic nunciature in Amman.

  • 9:15 a.m. (2:15 a.m.) Visit to the Memorial Church of Moses at Mount Nebo. Speech by pope.

  • 10:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Pope blesses the cornerstone of the Latin Patriarchate's University of Madaba. Speech by pope.

  • 11:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.) Visit to the Hashemite Museum and the King Hussein Mosque in Amman.

  • 11:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.) Meeting with Muslim leaders, diplomats and rectors of the University of Jordan outside the mosque. Speech by pope.

  • 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Celebration of evening prayer in the Melkite Cathedral of St. George in Amman, attended by priests, men and women religious, seminarians and members of church movements. Speech by pope.
Sunday, May 10 (Amman, Bethany Beyond the Jordan)

  • 10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Mass at Amman's soccer stadium. Homily by pope. Recitation of Angelus. Talk by pope.

  • 12:45 p.m. (5:45 a.m.) Lunch with patriarchs, bishops and the papal entourage in the Latin-rite vicariate of Amman.

  • 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Visit to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptized.

  • 6 p.m. (11 a.m.) Blessing of cornerstones for a Latin Catholic church and Melkite Catholic church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Speech by pope.
Monday, May 11 (Amman, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem)

  • 7:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.) Private Mass in chapel of apostolic nunciature in Amman.

  • 10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Departure ceremony at Queen Alia International Airport. Speech by pope.

  • 10:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Departure for Israel.

  • 11 a.m. (4 a.m.) Welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Speech by pope.

  • 4:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.) Courtesy visit to President Shimon Peres in presidential palace in Jerusalem. Speech by pope.

  • 5:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) Visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Speech by pope.

  • 6:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m.) Meeting with organizations involved with interreligious dialogue at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center. Speech by pope.
Tuesday, May 12 (Jerusalem)

  • 9 a.m. (2 a.m.) Visit to the Dome of the Rock and courtesy visit to the grand mufti. Speech by pope.

  • 10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Visit to the Western Wall.

  • 10:45 a.m. (3:45 a.m.) Courtesy visit to two chief rabbis of Jerusalem at the Hechal Shlomo center. Speech by pope.

  • 11:50 a.m. (4:50 a.m.) Recitation of the "Regina Coeli" prayer at the chapel of the Cenacle together with the Catholic ordinaries of the Holy Land. Speech by pope.

  • 12:30 p.m. (5:30 a.m.) Brief visit to the Latin Patriarchate's co-cathedral.

  • 1 p.m. (6 a.m.) Lunch with the Catholic ordinaries of the Holy Land at the Latin Patriarchate.

  • 4:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m.) Mass in the Josafat Valley. Homily by pope. Wednesday, May 13 (Jerusalem, Bethlehem)

  • 9 a.m. (2 a.m.) Welcome ceremony in the square in front of the presidential palace of Bethlehem. Speech by pope.

  • 10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Mass in Manger Square. Homily by pope.

  • 12:30 p.m. (5:30 a.m.) Lunch with the Catholic ordinaries and Franciscan community of the Holy Land and the papal entourage in the Casa Nova guesthouse.

  • 3:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m.) Private visit to the grotto in the Church of the Nativity.

  • 4:10 p.m. (9:10 a.m.) Visit to the Caritas Children's Hospital.

  • 4:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.) Visit to the Aida refugee camp. Speech by pope.

  • 6 p.m. (11 a.m.) Courtesy visit to the president of the Palestinian Authority in the presidential palace.

  • 6:40 p.m. (11:40 a.m.) Farewell ceremony in the courtyard of the presidential palace. Speech by pope.
Thursday, May 14 (Nazareth)

  • 10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Mass on Mount Precipice in Nazareth. Homily by pope.

  • 12:30 p.m. (5:30 a.m.) Lunch with the Catholic ordinaries and Franciscan community of the Holy Land and the papal entourage in the Franciscan convent.

  • 3:50 p.m. (8:50 a.m.) Meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Franciscan convent.

  • 4:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m.) Pope greets religious leaders of Galilee in the auditorium of the Basilica of the Annunciation. Speech by pope.

  • 5 p.m. (10 a.m.) Visit to the Grotto of the Annunciation.

  • 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Celebration of evening prayer in the upper Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth attended by bishops, priests, men and women religious, seminarians, members of church movements and pastoral workers of Galilee. Speech by pope.
Friday, May 15 (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rome)

  • 7:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.) Private Mass in chapel of the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem.

  • 9:15 a.m. (2:15 a.m.) Ecumenical meeting in the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Speech by pope.

  • 10:15 a.m. (3:15 a.m.) Visit to the Holy Sepulcher. Speech by pope.

  • 11:10 a.m. (4:10 a.m.) Visit to the Armenian Apostolic patriarchate's Church of St. Jacob.

  • 1:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Speech by pope.

  • 2 p.m. (7 a.m.) Departure from the Ben Gurion International Airport for Rome.

  • 4:50 p.m. (10:50 a.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.