Cardinal Wilfred Napier and Archbishop Mark Coleridge speak about the issues being discussed at the Synod, we hear from the representative of the Anglican Communion on his experience at the Synod, we sit down with Fr. Thomas Rosica to discuss media coverage of the Synod and lastly we talk to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The enormous amount of media attention that Pope Francis attracts has highlighted the Church’s influence in the world of global politics. The Pope, whoever he is, is a spiritual leader, but one with a permanent seat at the political table. Hardly a week goes by in which Francis doesn’t meet with some head of state or foreign diplomat to discuss religion and politics in the respective country.
This past week it was the Palestinians’ turn. On May 13 the Vatican announced that the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine had finalized the draft text of an agreement on essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.
Then on May 16, on the eve of a canonization Mass in which two Palestinian nuns were proclaimed saints, Pope Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two men expressed their hope that peace talks would resume with Israel and that interreligious dialogue be promoted across the region.
Predictably, the three events—the bilateral agreement, the meeting with Abbas and the canonization of two Palestinians—reignited the discussion over the Vatican’s recognition of the “state of Palestine,” a recognition Israel categorically denies.
Israeli officials suggested that such recognition from third parties discourages the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table, and some pro-Israeli voices even raised concern over what this could mean for Catholic-Jewish relations.
For the sake of clarification, it is helpful to review the Vatican’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate the rationale behind it.
When last Wednesday’s announcement came from the Bilateral Commission, some credible voices in the media rightly pointed out that it wasn’t the first time the Vatican officially recognized the “state of Palestine.” It has been using this language since the 2012 United Nations vote to grant Palestine “non-member observer status,” a status shared by only one other state at the UN: the Holy See.
Far from going out-on-a-limb with its language, the Vatican simply recognizes what the vast majority of other nations recognize (the UN vote carried 138 in favor and 9 against with 41 abstentions).
And beyond this, it should be pointed out that the Vatican has long supported a “two-state” solution to the conflict. Upon his arrival in Tel Aviv last year, Pope Francis said:
“I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized. At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.” (Welcome Ceremony)
Pope Benedict said as much during his visit to the Holy Land in 2009, and John Paul II on many occasions insisted on a peaceful solution to the conflict. He also sought solidarity with the Palestinian people by fostering a relationship with then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Upon hearing of Arafat’s death in 2004, the Vatican issued a statement saying the Pope, “feels particularly close to the family of the departed, the Palestinian authorities and the Palestinian people,” and that he has “called upon the Prince of Peace to let the Star of Harmony shine over the Holy Land so that the two peoples who dwell in it may reconcile as two independent and sovereign states.”
Suffice it to say, no ground-breaking language was used over the past week by the Vatican regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Church’s position has been clear for years: a peaceful two-state solution whereby both parties respect the right and legitimacy of the other, with absolutely no recourse to violence. In recognizing the “state of Palestine” since 2012, the Vatican is adhering to the legitimate decision of the United Nations.
The Church always insists on peace over politics. Its support for a realized Palestinian state and a peaceful coexistence built on respect and mutuality is not exclusionary or one-sided, as some voices are suggesting. The Church equally supports the right and security of an Israeli state. But when it comes to conflict, especially violent conflict, the Church raises the bar beyond petty politics to the greater good, that is, justice and peace. As Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to the President of Israel in Jerusalem in 2009, “A nation’s true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.”
On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation. For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society. Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.
This week we’re unpacking the souvenirs from Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, including the pending prayer meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres. We speak to Fr. Thomas Rosica about the symbolism of the papal itinerary and the significance of his gestures during the visit.
Late Breaking Update: Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will meet at the Vatican on June 8 for their Prayer meeting.
Pope Francis is not the only pontiff to leave his hosts, and the world, with long lasting souvenirs of his visit.
The soon to be beatified Pope Paul VI could be the first pope who left his mark while traveling. His 1964 pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the first time a pope traveled outside Italy. It changed the idea of a pope being a monarch of monarchs to whom others made pilgrimage, into a traveling pastor who left home to tend to his flock.
During that 1964 voyage, Paul VI met with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. It the first time in 1000 years that a pope and patriarch formally met. It also launched a dialogue process that continues to this day.
JPII in Poland
In 1979 Pope John Paul II visited his homeland for the first time since being elected pope. He gave an electrifying homily during Mass at Warsaw’s Victory Square. He closed his homily calling on the Holy Spirit to descend and renew the face of the earth, “this earth.” Although it was more than ten years before the country would be free of its Soviet-backed regime, that homily is seen as the catalyst, encouraging Poles to slowly, quietly, build a new nation.
John Paul II had a more direct and immediate impact when he visted Cuba in 1998. He asked Fidel Castro to make Christmas Day a public holiday. Days later, Castro announced Christmas Day would indeed be a holiday for Cubans. Benedict XVI followed in his predecessors footsteps in 2012, asking Raoul Castro to make Good Friday a public holiday. His request was also granted. To this day Good Friday and Christmas Day are national holidays in Cuba.
Pope Francis blesses a Palestinian journalist aboard the papal plane on his flight to Amman, Jordan, May 24, the start of his three-day visit to the Holy Land. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Holy Father is welcomed by Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal after arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman May 24. (CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II welcomes Pope Francis after arriving in Amman May 24. (CNS photo/Ali Jarekji, Reuters)
Pope Francis is welcomed by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his wife, Queen Rania, during an arrival ceremony at the al-Husseini Royal Palace in Amman May 24. Here is Pope Francis’ address to the Jordanian authorities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Upon his arrival at the al-Husseini Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, May 24, Pope Francis is welcomed by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, his wife, Queen Rania, and their children. The Holy Father made a three-day visit to the Holy Land, spending one day each in Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
A Palestinian man holds a picture of Pope Francis during a May 24 demonstration calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and in solidarity with prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 31 days in Tulkarm, West Bank. (CNS photo/Abed Omar Qusini, Reuters)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his wife, Queen Rania, arrive with Pope Francis as the pontiff visits Bethany Beyond the Jordan May 24, believed to be where Jesus was baptized, southwest of Amman. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis makes the Sign of the Cross after praying as he visits Bethany Beyond the Jordan May 24 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Holy Father’s skull cap is blown into the air as he delivers his homily during Mass at Amman International Stadium in Jordan May 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis met with refugees and disabled young people in the Latin church at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism, southwest of Amman, Jordan, May 24. Here is his address. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis prays in front of the Israeli security wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 25. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, pool)
The Holy Father bows towards the flag of the Palestinian Authority as he reviews the honor guard during an arrival ceremony with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 25. Here is his address to Palestinian authorities. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 25. Here is his homily. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis visits with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople prays during a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (CNS photo/courtesy John Mindala)
Family chosen to eat with Pope Francis after Mass in Bethlehem: George Sbait and his wife, Shadia, with their children, Caesar, 13, and Nicole, 15, in front of a section of the Israeli separation wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 24. The Sbaits had lunch with Pope Francis in Bethlehem May 25. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
Pope Francis prays in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 25, the traditional site of Christ’s birth. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Young people greeted Pope Francis during a meeting May 25 in the Dehiyshe Refugee Camp’s Phoenix Cultural Center, near Bethlehem, West Bank. The Holy Father told Palestinian refugee youths to look to the future and to always work and strive for the things they wanted. (CNS photo/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople attended an ecumenical celebration in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem May 25. Here is Pope Francis’ address during the Ecumenical Service. Prior to the Ecumenical Service, a Common Declaration was signed by Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kiss the Stone of Unction in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher May 25. The two leaders marked the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)
The Holy Father prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 26. The pope stood for more than a minute and a half with his right hand against the wall, most of the time in silent prayer, before reciting the Our Father. Then he followed custom by leaving a written message inside a crack between two blocks. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis is embraced by Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka as he leaves after praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 26. On the right is Omar Abboud, Muslim leader from Argentina. “We did it,” Rabbi Skorka said he told the pope and Abboud. The pope ‘s message contained the text of the Our Father and of the 122nd Psalm, traditionally prayed by Jewish pilgrims who travel to Jerusalem.(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
On May 26 Pope Francis visited Israel’s two chief rabbis, Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, left, and Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, in at the Heichal Shlomo center in Jerusalem. The pope told them that Jews were not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus and called on Christians and Jews to develop greater appreciation for their common “spiritual heritage,” through deeper knowledge of each other’s faith, especially among the young. Here is his address. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis met with Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. “May we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters and learn to understand the sufferings of others … May no one abuse the name of God through violence! May we work together for justice and peace!” said Pope Francis in his address during the visit.
On May 26 Pope Francis met Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. The pope told Peres that he wanted to “invent a new beatitude, which I apply to myself, ‘Blessed is the one welcomed into the home of a wise and good man.'” Here is his address. (CNS photo/ Tsafrir Abayo v, EPA)
Pope Francis and Israel’s President Shimon Peres plant an olive tree as a symbol for peace after their meeting at the president’s residence May 26. (CNS photo/ Amir Cohen, EPA)
Pope Francis visits a memorial at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem May 26. Theodor Herzl was the father of the Zionist movement that led to Israel’s founding. (CNS photo/ OSSERVATORE ROMANO handout, EPA)
Pope Francis visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem May 26. The pope laid a wreath of flowers at the site, and talked to and kissed the hands of six Holocaust survivors. Also in attendance were Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Here is his address. (CNS photo/ OSSERVATORE ROMANO handout, EPA)
Pope Francis kisses the hand of a woman during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem May 26. The pope honored the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. (CNS photo/Abi r Sultan, EPA)
Pope Francis arrives to meet priests, men and women religious and seminarians in the Church of All Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem May 26. “[God] never abandons us. And so, let us not be overwhelmed by fear or disheartened, but wi th courage and confidence let us press forward in our journey and in our mission,” he told them. Here is his address. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Holy Father celebrates Mass with the ordinaries of the Holy Land and the papal delegation in the Cenacle in Jerusalem May 26. The pope dedicated his final hours in Jerusalem to time with local Catholics, reminding them that despite difficulties, God is always by their side. Here is his homily. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Holy Father boards an airplane at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv May 26. The three-day Holy Land pilgrimage was rife with calls for bridging divisions. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)
Pope Francis answered questions from journalists aboard the flight from Tel Aviv to Rome May 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
En route home to Vatican City following his three-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, His Holiness Pope Francis held an hour-long question and answer session with the media. The in-flight event covered a wide variety of topics, the first of which was clerical child abuse. The Holy Father stated clearly that there would be absolutely no preferential treatment when dealing with this matter. He noted that there were in fact three bishops currently under investigation and that another had been convicted with a decision on punishment pending. In response to the crisis, Pope Francis said that he will be holding a two day conference next week with abuse survivors at the Vatican and celebrate mass with them at Casa Santa Marta. He said that, “we must move forward on this issue, with zero tolerance!”
The Pope was then asked about the matter of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in advance of October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family. The Holy Father said that the fundamental question that required examination by the Synod, was the problem of fewer and fewer young people choosing to marry. He said that he did not want the Synod to find itself being dominated by questions relating to divorced and remarried Catholics. He did however say that such people should not be treated as if they were excommunicated.
Speaking on the European Parliamentary elections this past weekend, he said that unemployment was the key issue voters. He said the current global economic order has money at its center and not the human person. This has resulted in people’s priorities shifting and the vulnerable such as children and the elderly being discarded by society. He said that this is ultimately reflected through the continents continually declining birth rate.
Responding to other questions, he noted that priestly celibacy was no means dogmatic, and that in fact the Church has married priests among the Eastern Rites. Asked about reform of the Curia, the Pontiff said he planned to lighten the size of the government of the Church by merging various dicasteries. The Holy Father also announced that in addition to his planned trip to South Korea in August that he would also be travelling to both Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January. He said the in some areas of Asia there are still concerns over religious freedom, saying that “There are martyrs! There are martyrs in our times, Christian martyrs, both Catholic and non-Catholic. There are places where it is forbidden to wear a crucifix or to possess a Bible; where it is forbidden to teach the catechism to children.” He also noted that during his visit to the Philippines he would be visiting areas affected by the typhoon.
To conclude his gathering with the media the Pope answered a question about whether or not he would follow the lead of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and one day retire. The Holy Father responded by saying that the brave decision made by Benedict opened all kinds of doors, but that he would ultimately listen to what the Lord was calling him to do.
Upon returning to Rome, Pope Francis made a private visit to the Archbasilica of Santa Maria Majore. While there he gave thanks to the Blessed Mother for the success of his trip and presented a bouquet of flowers before the icon of Madonna Salus Populi Romani. After praying for about half an hour, the Holy Father then took a few minutes to speak to the faithful visiting the Archbasilica.
This past Saturday, the Archdiocese of Toronto ordained eight men to the permanent diaconate. Ordained by His Eminence Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, the rite of ordination took place at St. Paul’s Basilica in downtown Toronto. The men and their wives received formation at St. Augustine’s Seminary, including a year of prayer and discernment, as well as four years of theological study. The Archdiocese’s new permanent deacons are: Deacon Delbert John Francis Allan, vice-principal of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School in Aurora, Deacon John Patrick Brown, a partner at a major law firm, Deacon Joerg-Stephan Brunck, president of a gourmet cookie company, Deacon Timothy Joseph Dunlop, a financial advisor and mortgage agent, Deacon Paul Ma, an engineering specialist, Deacon Peter Tetsuo Takaoka, manager at an engineering consulting firm, and Deacon Richard Go Te, assistant vice president of business operations at a wealth management firm. The new class included, the Archdiocese of Toronto has 113 permanent deacons.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land.
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Mass with Ordinaries of the Holy Land
Upper Room, Jerusalem, 26 May 2014
It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.
In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30).
To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.
The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.
The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.
The Upper Room reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.
The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.
The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal. We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.
The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in Heaven.
These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church.
“He came out and went… to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him” (Lk 22:39).
At the hour which God had appointed to save humanity from its enslavement to sin, Jesus came here, to Gethsemane, to the foot of the Mount of Olives. We now find ourselves in this holy place, a place sanctified by the prayer of Jesus, by his agony, by his sweating of blood, and above all by his “yes” to the loving will of the Father. We dread in some sense to approach what Jesus went through at that hour; we tread softly as we enter that inner space where the destiny of the world was decided.
In that hour, Jesus felt the need to pray and to have with him his disciples, his friends, those who had followed him and shared most closely in his mission. But here, at Gethsemane, following him became difficult and uncertain; they were overcome by doubt, weariness and fright. As the events of Jesus’ passion rapidly unfolded, the disciples would adopt different attitudes before the Master: closeness, distance, hesitation.
Here, in this place, each of us – bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and seminarians – might do well to ask: Who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord?
Am I among those who, when Jesus asks them to keep watch with him, fall asleep instead, and rather than praying, seek to escape, refusing to face reality?
Do I see myself in those who fled out of fear, who abandoned the Master at the most tragic hour in his earthly life?
Is there perhaps duplicity in me, like that of the one who sold our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, who was once called Jesus’ “friend”, and yet ended up by betraying him?
Do I see myself in those who drew back and denied him, like Peter? Shortly before, he had promised Jesus that he would follow him even unto death (cf. Lk 22:33); but then, put to the test and assailed by fear, he swore he did not know him.
Am I like those who began planning to go about their lives without him, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, foolish and slow of heart to believe the words of the prophets (cf. Lk 24:25)?
Or, thanks be to God, do I find myself among those who remained faithful to the end, like the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John? On Golgotha, when everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless, only love proved stronger than death. The love of the Mother and the beloved disciple made them stay at the foot of the Cross, sharing in the pain of Jesus, to the very end.
Do I recognize myself in those who imitated their Master and Lord to the point of martyrdom, testifying that he was everything to them, the incomparable strength sustaining their mission and the ultimate horizon of their lives?
Jesus’ friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift which encourages us to follow him trustingly, our failures, our mistakes and betrayals notwithstanding.
But the Lord’s goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life. We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and of own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness. Yet the Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties. He is ever at our side, he never abandons us. And so, let us not be overwhelmed by fear or disheartened, but with courage and confidence let us press forward in our journey and in our mission.
You, dear brothers and sisters, are called to follow the Lord with joy in this holy land! It is a gift and it is a responsibility. Your presence here is extremely important; the whole Church is grateful to you and she sustains you by her prayers.
Let us imitate the Virgin Mary and Saint John, and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified. This is how the Lord calls us to follow him.
“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also” (Jn 12:26).
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
To the Two Chief Rabbis of Israel
Jerusalem, 26 May 2014
Distinguished Chief Rabbis of Israel,
I am particularly pleased to be here with you today. I am grateful for your warm reception and your kind words of welcome.
As you know, from the time I was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I have counted many Jews among my friends. Together we organized rewarding occasions of encounter and dialogue; with them I also experienced significant moments of sharing on a spiritual level. In the first months of my pontificate, I was able to receive various organizations and representatives from the Jewish community worldwide. As was the case with my predecessors, there have been many requests for such meetings. Together with the numerous initiatives taking place on national and local levels, these testify to our mutual desire to know one another better, to listen to each other and to build bonds of true fraternity.
This journey of friendship represents one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, and particularly of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, which proved so influential and whose fiftieth anniversary we will celebrate next year. I am convinced that the progress which has been made in recent decades in the relationship between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift of God, one of those great works for which we are called to bless his holy name: “Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his love endures forever; who alone has wrought marvellous works, for his love endures forever” (Ps 135/136:3-4).
A gift of God, yes, but one which would not have come about without the efforts of so many courageous and generous people, Jews and Christians alike. Here I would like to mention in particular the growing importance of the dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Inspired by the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, this dialogue was inaugurated in 2002 and is already in its twelfth year. I would like to think that, in terms of the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah, it is just coming of age. I am confident that it will continue and have a bright future in years to come.
We need to do more than simply establish reciprocal and respectful relations on a human level: we are also called, as Christians and Jews, to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us. It is a bond whose origins are from on high, one which transcends our own plans and projects, and one which remains intact despite all the difficulties which, sadly, have marked our relationship in the past.
On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith. I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people.
Mutual understanding of our spiritual heritage, appreciation for what we have in common and respect in matters on which we disagree: all these can help to guide us to a closer relationship, an intention which we put in God’s hands. Together, we can make a great contribution to the cause of peace; together, we can bear witness, in this rapidly changing world, to the perennial importance of the divine plan of creation; together, we can firmly oppose every form of anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination. May the Lord help us to walk with confidence and strength in his ways. Shalom!
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis Visit to the Memorial of Yad Vashem Jerusalem, 26 May 2014
“Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen 3:9). Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: “Adam, where are you?” This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost… yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, That cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…
Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?
Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good (cf. Gen 2:7).
No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart… Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.
Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of God: “Adam, where are you?”
From the ground there rises up a soft cry: “Have mercy on us, O Lord!” To you, O Lord our God, belongs righteousness; but to us confusion of face and shame (cf. Bar 1:15).
A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens (cf. Bar 2:2). Now, Lord, hear our prayer, hear our plea, save us in your mercy. Save us from this horror.
Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever (cf. Bar 3:1-2). Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!
“Adam, where are you?” Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing.
Remember us in your mercy.