Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rock Star Pope Francis takes his people's pilgrimage to Holy Land


From the speech of Pope Francis at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on the second and final day of his visit to the Holy Land. He reiterated messages of fraternity, mutual respect and tolerance

President Peres welcomes Pope Francis. Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Pope Francis arrived in Israel and implored its leaders to leave no stone unturned in their quest for peace

The Pope with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
POPE Francis has denounced arms dealers and appealed for an urgent end to the Syrian civil war as he began his three-day trip to the Middle East.

Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO

By William Booth and Ruth Eglash, Published: May 26

JERUSALEM — Proving himself to be a shrewd diplomat, Pope Francis on Monday reached out to Jewish Israelis by kissing the hands of elderly Holocaust survivors at a memorial, praying at the holiest Jewish site in Jerusalem — the Western Wall — and later placing a wreath at the grave of the founder of Zionism.

Meeting the Chief Rabbis of Israel at Heichal Shlomo. Photo: Haim Zach, GPO
And at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the pontiff added an unplanned stop at an Israeli monument to commemorate the civilian and military victims of terror attacks.

Photo: Haim Zach, GPO

The pope’s unscheduled trip to the terror victims memorial was added by the Vatican after Israeli authorities privately complained about the pontiff’s photo op Sunday at a controversial security barrier in Bethlehem separating Israel and the West Bank, according to an account from a Western diplomat in Jerusalem.

The new pope, 15 months into his job, demonstrated a canny ability to calm emotions in a region beset by religious and political frictions on a three-day trip to the Holy Land that ended Monday. The pontiff had said his visit would be “strictly religious,” but it was not.

The Pope lands in Jerusalem. Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO
The Pope with Patriarch Bartholomew. Photo: Mark Nyman, GPO

Francis on Sunday secured a promise from Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him at the Vatican next month to pray together and talk peace.  While his efforts may lead to nothing, Francis at least has gotten the two sides to start talking again after Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s negotiations collapsed in a round of bitter recriminations in April.

. The Pope at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO
Asked what the three men might discuss, a Vatican spokesman said: “The pope does not have a political agenda and does not have a proposal for diplomatic dialogue. This is not his mission. This is not what he desires.”

The Pope at the Dome of the Rock. Photo: Haim Zach, GPO

In a marathon schedule that saw the 77-year-old pontiff attend more than 30 events in 55 hours, the pope seemed willing to acknowledge the often-conflicting narratives of suffering from both Israelis and Palestinians.

At the Western Wall. Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO

Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO
He also was a gracious guest in Jordan, showering Jordan’s ruling monarch, King Abdullah II, himself a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad, with praise for his people’s generosity. There are about 600,000 registered Syrian refugees and 250,000 Iraqis who live in Jordan after fleeing war and chaos in their homelands.

At the memorial for victims of terror. Photo: Avi Ohayon
Meeting Holocaust survivors. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO
On Sunday, the pontiff prayed in Bethlehem at a section of the high cement wall that recently had been spray-painted with graffiti reading “Free Palestine” and comparing Bethlehem, surrounded by barriers on three sides in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw during the reign of the Nazis.

The photograph of the pope at the wall was published widely in news reports and social media around the world, and Vatican and Israeli officials acknowledged that Netanyahu was troubled by the stop.

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