Good Day All,
Today is a bright cloudless day here in Jerusalem – and in Nazareth, which is closer to the coast, it will be even hotter as Pope Benedict is visiting the home site of Jesus.
His day yesterday in Bethlehem yesterday proved to be a good day – with no obvious glitches or blunders. Today won't be so easy. Pope Benedict will be meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is in direct confrontation to Israel's past-signed agreements (and the Popes' own stated desire) to see a State for the Palestinian People.
But in addition to that, the Vatican and Israel are in several debates including a visa dispute. Some Israeli diplomatic officials are fearing a new crisis is brewing, but in fact it has been a long going struggle with Christian institutions. It has been a problem that Israel doesn't allow for enough Visas for priests and nuns to care for the Christian sites and congregations.
Many perceive this policy as part of the problem of indigenous Christians leaving this land – because they do not have the support within their own cultural society. Despite the Vatican's request, the Interior Minister has to date refused to approve entry into Israel of 500 priests from Arab countries to serve the faithful here.
This issue of Christian exodus is receiving wide spread international attention as the Pope has made it part of his themes as he has addresses various crowds and assemblies.
Below is what the Pontiff said here in my dwelling this week;
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am happy to be here with you today in this Co-Cathedral, where the Christian community in Jerusalem continues to gather, as it has been doing for centuries, ever since the earliest days of the Church.
Here in this city, Peter first preached the Good News of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, when about three thousand souls were added to the number of the disciples.
Here too the first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). From Jerusalem, the Gospel has gone out “to all the earth … to the ends of the world” (Ps 19:4), yet all the time, the Church's missionary effort has been sustained by the prayers of the faithful, gathered around the altar of the Lord, invoking the mighty power of the Holy Spirit upon the work of preaching.
…In the words of the Psalmist, I ask you also to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps 122:6), to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land…”
Again, words likely not found in the mainstream media – but powerful and encouraging words to us as Christians.
Middle East Correspondent