HOLY FATHER, HOLY LAND
Pope Benedict XVI has returned from his visit to the countries of Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian state. It was a visit fraught with challenges and difficulties and one on which a great deal of hopes and anticipations rode. I think the Pope’s visit to all three countries was successful as he negotiated some of the deepest tensions, distrust and animosities to be found almost anywhere on planet earth. His first stop in Jordan, friendly in all ways, was to greet the Christian refugees who have fled Iraq. Their number continues to increase and the Holy Father assured them that they were not forgotten. From there he travelled to Israel where the government greeted him with warmth and welcome. As Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II had done on their prior visits, he assured the Israelies that he and Catholics everywhere recognized their need for and right to their own land and nation. He apologized for the sin of the holocaust and repeated the prayer of every person of good will who comes into contact even through history with that horror – never again! He then had the task of assuring the Palestinians that they too should be allowed to live in their own homeland and he prayed and pleaded for peace. All in all, he accomplished his mission and went out of his way to assure the 3% of the population who are Christian and who remain that they are not forgotten and need to remain to maintain the Christian sites and places of pilgrimage. Stalin once brushed the papacy aside by snidely remarking, “and how many legions does the Pope have?” Military power – none. Moral power – awesome. I trust that you were as proud of the Holy Father’s visit to this troubled area of the world as I and many others.