Saturday, May 9, 2009
The Pope comes a-calling
News reports here are filled with commentary about the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. He arrives on Thursday, walking into parts of the world where on occasion, his welcome will be lukewarm, at best.
For example, he’s planning on visiting Nazaret in order to visit the Church of the Annunciation where he’ll celebrate the largest of three planned Masses. Nazaret enjoyed a majority Christian population during the period when Israel controlled the territory. Today, under Arab rule, the Christians have dwindled to a shaky 35% and falling. Not everyone is entirely happy about the visit.
In the large plaza outside the church, Muslims have hung large signs picturing the Dome of the Rock, with the message, ““And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers” in both English and Arabic.
That gave me the funeral giggles. A few days ago, someone emailed me a link to a Rowan Atkinson sketch. Check it out:
As you might expect, the Muslims aren’t the least bit bashful about their feelings.
Thousands of fliers are being distributed: “We announce from Nazareth that we are opposed to the Pope’s visit. A person who cursed the prophet, who stood at the head of the effort to convert Muslims in Darfur, Indonesia and the Muslim world, attacked Islam, praised America and drew near and fraternized with the butcher of Gaza is unwanted here,” the flyer reads.
Even though Israel has a lot more to lose from the Pope’s visit than do the Muslims, we tend to be a little more circumspect.
Officialdom will, of course, roll out the red carpet – literally. It’s just that many of us tend to mistrust anyone who comes saying they bring a message of ‘peace’. Foreign promoters of ‘peace’ are usually peddling some plan that involves Israel laying down its weapons and ceding more land, while asking nothing of our enemies.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all in favor of real peace. It’s just that I think we need a little victory before any kind of peace is possible.
Interesting that Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau tends to be a little more hesitant about his welcome than are many of the elected officials.
While saying we should not “rebuff” the Pope’s visit, he also made a point of mentioning Benedict’s personal history. “The current pope was born in Germany and was a member of the Hitler Youth. I don’t know if he was in the German Army, but his background is totally different than that of his predecessor.”
Rabbi Lau, who’s a Holocaust survivor, also noted that the Pope had committed two grave mistakes in his relationship with Israel during the last year. First, he reinstated the Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson, who repeatedly insisted there had been no systematic murder of Jews. Then, when force of public opinion caused him to apologize, he apologized only for offending his friends in the Church, not for what he’d said.
Second, two weeks ago at the Durban II conference, the Pope’s representatives attended and blessed the participants, including Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who gave a virulently anti-Semitic, anti-Israel rant. Several countries boycotted the conference entirely, while others walked out during Ahmadinejad’s tirade. But not the Pope’s delegation. They remained throughout the whole speech.
Still, in Israel, the Pope will be welcomed with all the pomp and ceremony accorded any visiting dignitary.
But consider this: What do you think would happen if the Pope were to visit Mecca, and say that in the interests of peace, Mecca should be divided?