Archive of May 26, 2014

Pope prays at Holocaust memorial, Western Wall

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA) - On the last day of his Holy Land pilgrimage Pope Francis stopped to pray at two sacred sites in Jerusalem.

The Pontiff visited the the Western Wall in Jerusalem on the morning of May 26, pausing to pray at the site and leaving the Our Father in Spanish tucked into one of the cracks. The Wall is a sacred place for Jews, the only remains of second temple.

Deviating from his planned itinerary, he also stopped to visit a memorial to Israeli victims of terrorism.

Later at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Pope Francis met with survivors of the Holocaust. As a flame was lit, Pope Francis prayed the following prayer:

(Full text of the official English translation, below)

“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.

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Pope Francis lauds fraternal dialogue with Muslims, Jews

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA) - Pope Francis spent a large part of the third day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land meeting with Muslim and Jewish leaders, praising the shared commitment to dialogue.

“We are experiencing a fraternal dialogue and exchange which are able to restore us and offer us new strength to confront the common challenges before us,” the Pope told Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on May 26.

He met with the the Muslim leader as well as the Present of the Supreme Muslim Council and others and others Monday morning at the Dome of the Rock.

The Pontiff took the opportunity to reflect on the figure of Abraham, “who lived as a pilgrim in these lands,” and serves as an important figure to the three major religions.

“Muslims, Christians and Jews see in him, albeit in different ways, a father in faith and a great example to be imitated. He became a pilgrim, leaving his own people and his own house in order to embark on that spiritual adventure to which God called him,” he said.

Like Abraham, we are on an “earthly pilgrimage” but “we are not alone. We cross paths with our brothers and sisters of ours...we experience with them a moment of rest which refreshes us.”

Pope Francis noted that Abraham’s attitude should be an example for every person.

A pilgrim “makes himself poor” and “sets out intently toward a great and longed-for destination” living in “hope of a promise received.”

“This was how Abraham lived and this should be our spiritual attitude,” he encouraged.

“We can never think of ourselves (as) self-sufficient, masters of our own lives. We cannot be content with remaining withdrawn, secure in our convictions.”

The Holy Father urged continued efforts for peace, noting that “the pilgrimage of Abraham was also a summons to righteousness.”

Just as God called Abraham to witness to a righteous way of life, “we too wish to witness to God’s working in the world, and so, precisely in this meeting, we hear deep within us his summons to work for peace and justice.”

Pope Francis stressed, “Dear friends, from this holy place I make a heartfelt plea to all people and to all communities who look to Abraham: may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters!”
“May we 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!”

The Pope’s appeal for peace and appreciation of dialogue continued in his later meeting with Jewish Rabbis at the Heichal Shlomo Center in Jerusalem.

“As you know, from the time I was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I have counted many Jews among my friends,” he told the Chief Rabbis of Israel.

“Together we organized rewarding occasions of encounter and dialogue; with them I also experienced significant moments of sharing on a spiritual level,” he recounted.

Pope Francis referred to the many requests for meetings and improving relations between Jewish leaders and the Popes of the last decades as “one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council” and “a genuine gift of God.”

He went on to say that the relationships between Christians and Jews must be reflective of the “spiritual bond” between the two.

“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 us to a closer relationship, an intention which we put in God’s hands.”

The Pontiff closed by encouraging continued collaboration.

“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,” he said.

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Meeting Pope a sign of the early Church, seminarian reflects

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Dcn. Bernard Poggi, who is among the priests and religious slated to meet with Pope Francis in Jerusalem later today, stated that seeing the successor of Peter reminds him of the first apostles.

“To have the successor of Peter in this land where Peter was and to have so many priests, religious and seminarians” present with him “is a reminder of the first Church” Dcn. Poggi told CNA May 26.

It brings hope that the Church “continues like the promise of Christ; that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

Originally from San Francisco, Cali., USA, Deacon Poggi moved to Jerusalem five years ago in order to join the seminary of the Latin Patriarchy and is among the priests and religious who will meet with Pope Francis later this evening in Jerusalem’s Church of Gethsemane, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Speaking of his decision to enter the seminary, the deacon relayed that he originally felt called during his first visit to the Holy Land for a pilgrimage in 2007.

“I saw what the Church was doing in the Holy Land for the Christian community” and how they served them he recalled, so “I decided to give my life” in service to the Church.

“Now it’s a big honor to serve in the Holy Land” the deacon continued, adding that “with all of the difficulties one has to deal with because of the political situation,” you feel that “you are supporting Jesus in the Holy Land.”

“It’s a fulfilling feeling to know that you are serving the Church in this land.”

Recalling how he was present at the Roman Pontiff’s Mass yesterday in Bethlehem, Dcn. Poggi explained that it was “an honor to be with the Pope in Manger Square” and that he is greatly looking forward to tonight’s encounter at Gethsemane.

“It’s wonderful to be gathered around the Holy Father” and “encouraging” to see him experience a little of what life is like for those who live in the Holy Land, the deacon observed.

“I wish he could see what Christians live here every day” he explained, acknowledging that the Pope is doing “the best the can,” and saying that the pontiff’s brief stop yesterday to pray at the dividing wall between Israel and Palestine was “a touching moment.”

Going on, Dcn. Poggi pointed out that “living in the Holy Land is never easy” because of the ongoing tensions, stating that when “you go through check points you feel at times that people don’t want you there,” and often “they delay you,” so “you feel unwelcome.”

“But when you see the locals and see how they need you it makes it worth it” he said, adding that “difficulties never get in the way of your daily duties.”

It’s a call “to live with humility and to try to live as Jesus did.”

Revealing his expectations for his encounter with Pope Francis tonight, the deacon stated that he “expects to work toward Christian unity.”

Noting that last night’s moment of prayer between the pontiff and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartolomeo I, was “very important because Christian unity is important,” Dcn. Poggi observed that efforts for unity are crucial because “we have the same Lord Jesus Christ but are separated because we are not in full communion.”

Pope Francis’ presence in the Holy Land is “a big sign of hope” and it brings “the prospect of peace” he stated, referencing the moment of prayer to take place between the Israeli and Palestinian presidents next month in the Vatican.

The Pope allows us “to have the prospect of peace once again” he explained. “The Pope brings the prospect of peace.”

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Pope, Israeli president renew mutual commitment to peace

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a meeting today with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Pope Francis expressed his hope that Jerusalem would be a true 'city of peace,' with Peres echoing his commitment.

“May Jerusalem be truly the City of Peace! May her identity and her sacred character, her universal religious and cultural significance shine forth as a treasure for all mankind,” said the Pope on May 26 in the garden of the president’s residence.

Pope Francis also called for free access to sacred sites in Jerusalem, which are not “monuments or museums for tourists, but places where communities of believers daily express their faith and culture, and carry out their work of charity.”

He said that the “sacred character” of the holy places “must be perpetually maintained and protection given not only to the legacy of the past, but also to all those who visit these sites today and to those who will visit them in future.”

The Roman Pontiff then stressed, “how good it is when pilgrims and residents enjoy?free access to the Holy Places and can freely take part in religious celebrations.”

Pope Francis praised president Peres for being known as a man of peace and a peacemaker, and reminded him that “peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life.”

“This shared conviction enables us resolutely to pursue peaceful solution to every controversy and conflict,” Pope Francis underscored.

The Pope then renewed his plea “to all parties” to “avoid any initiatives and actions which contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement” – the same words he addressed to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas May 25.

Pope Francis affirmed that “a firm rejection of all that is opposed to the cultivation of peace and respectful relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims” is needed.

“We think, for example, of recourse to violence and terrorism, all forms of discrimination on the basis of race or religion, attempts to impose one’s own point of view at the expense of the rights of others, anti-Semitism in all its possible expressions, and signs of intolerance directed against individuals or places of worship, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim,” Pope Francis said.

The Pope also spoke of the need for respect for minority Christian communities, saying that “the presence of these communities and respect for their rights – as for the rights of all other religious groups and all minorities – are the guarantee of a healthy pluralism and proof of the vitality of democratic values.”

“Christians wish to contribute to the common good and the growth of peace; they wish to do so as full fledged citizens who reject extremism in all its forms and are committed to fostering reconciliation and harmony,” said the Pope.

Pope Francis then assured president Peres of his “constant prayer for the attainment of peace and all the inestimable goods which accompany it: security, tranquillity, prosperity and fraternity.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis mentioned the “continuing crises in the Middle East” and prayed that “their sufferings may soon be alleviated by an honourable resolution of hostilities.   Peace be upon Israel and the entire Middle East!   Shalom!”

In his speech, President Peres took the opportunity to highlight the role of Jerusalem as “city of peace,” addressing an appeal to the Pope who “has spoken so much against violence.”

“Blood of innocent people is spread. We would like that the amount of those who cause violence and war be diminished. We have to join together to bear peace. We have the responsibility of this,” said Peres.

Peres then told Pope Francis: “Your Holiness, you are working so much to build dialogue among everybody, to achieve peace in this region, to achieve world peace. We are with you, with all of our heart, all of our soul, to fight against war and live peace.”

The official remarks delivered at the assembly in the garden were preceded by a private visit in the presidential residence.

Seated beside the Pope, Peres told him, “interreligious peace is needed to achieve peace in other areas. Peace is a matter of imagination and inspiration. You bear imagination and inspiration, and we need them. Thank you for this.”

Pope Francis replied, “With my imagination and inspiration I would like to invent a new ‘beatitude,’ which fits to me in this very moment: blessed he who enters in the house of a wise and good man. I feel blessed.”

After their informal talk, the two men exchanged gifts.

Pope Francis gave president Peres a bronze bas-relief that commemorates the meeting between Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras 50 years ago, while president Peres gave Pope Francis a painting representing an olive tree which was painted by disadvantaged children in Nazareth.

They then headed outside to plant an olive tree as a sign of peace.

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Vatican: Pope's stop at terrorist memorial not a political move

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amid claims that Pope Francis' unscheduled stop at an Israeli memorial for terrorist victims was made under pressure to appease government officials, the Holy See has said that the rumors are false.

Stating that he “was not surprised” by the negative reactions some have had toward the Pope’s stop, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi explained to journalists May 26 that the visit “was against terrorism and nothing else.”

“The Pope is free to do what he has to do,” he said, emphasizing that   he is not the “analyst of every thought” or action of the Pope, and that if the pontiff wishes to commemorate the innocent victims it is has nothing to do with any other individual.

Pope Francis made the detour today during his visit with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of his three day pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

According to the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, the stop was done at the prime minister’s request, and has been seen by some as an attempt to appease Israeli authorities following the Pope’s impromptu visit to the separation wall diving Israel and Palestine yesterday ahead of his Mass in Bethlehem.

Despite the fact that some suggest the Pope was pressured into making the stop, Fr. Lombardi assured that he has “no political agenda.”

The spokesman also referred to a tweet sent by Netanyahu following the memorial visit stating that he explained to the Pope that “building the security fence prevented many more victims that Palestinian terror planned to harm.”

When asked by journalists what the Pope’s reaction was, Fr. Lombardi simply stated that he did not know, and that when you are given an explanation one listens patiently with interest and a desire to hear the person out.

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At Gethsemane, Pope urges religious to live without fear

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Religious, priests, and seminarians gathered in the Church near the garden of Gethsemane today to meet with Pope Francis, who urged them to follow Christ with courage.

“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,” the Pope assured those gathered near the site of Jesus' agony in the garden on May 26.

The Church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives was filled with enthusiastic religious, priests, and seminarians anxious to hear the Pope’s remarks.

“We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and our own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness,” Pope Francis acknowledged.

Yet “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.”

The Pope urged the consecrated persons to remain aware of the dangers of temptation, however.

“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,” he cautioned.

In a Jesuit-style meditation on the passion story of Jesus, Pope Francis urged his listeners to ask themselves, “who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord?”

Referencing the garden of Gethsemane where the disciples abandoned Christ, which is situated just outside the Church, he asked: “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?” he asked.

“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?”

At the moment of Jesus' suffering on the cross, “everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless” but “only love proved stronger than death,” reflected the Pontiff.

He encouraged the consecrated to stay faithful to the love of Christ despite the difficulties of their lives.

“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.”

Pope Francis assured them, “your presence here is extremely important; the whole Church is grateful to you and she sustains you by her prayers.”

The Holy Father closed his remarks by quoting the words of Jesus in the gospel of John. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

“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,” he urged.

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Pope Francis recalls birth of Church in Upper Room

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the conclusion of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis focused his homily at Mass on the significance of the Upper Room, held to be the site of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' apostles.

“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,” said Pope Francis on May 26 in Jerusalem.

“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,” he recalled.

In recognition of the significance of the holy site, Pope Francis celebrated the mass of the Holy Spirit along with the bishops of the Holy Land, noting that the Spirit’s presence is still with the Church today.

“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.”

Pope Francis also spoke of how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in the Upper Room at the last supper, offering an example of “welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another.”

He recounted how Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist with his disciples, and continues to be present in the Eucharist throughout the centuries.

“In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering God our lives, our joys, and our sorrows...offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.”

The Upper Room also offers a reminder of betrayal, the Pope noted, since the traitor Judas had been present with the others there.

Betrayal can happen “whenever we look at our brother and sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus,” he cautioned.

Yet the holy site is also a reminder of “sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace.”

“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,” he remarked.

“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.”

The Pontiff went on to consider how the Church is like a family, “that has a mother, the Virgin Mary.”

“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 daughters of the one Father in heaven,” he stressed.

Pope Francis concluded his final mass in the Holy Land by praying for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

“Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth!”

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Pope Francis most open Pope to Jews in history, rabbi says

Jerusalem, Israel, May 26, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Jewish rabbi and historian has lauded Pope Francis’ visit to the tomb of an important Jewish personality, stating that he is the most accommodating Pope history has seen.

Pope Francis has taken “certainly the most friendly, proactive, accommodating position of any Pope probably in history” toward the Jewish people, Rabbi Ken Spiro explained to CNA May 26.

The fact that the Roman Pontiff has “gone somewhere such as Herzl’s tomb is kind of like closing a circle” he stated.

Spiro, who was born and raised in the United States but has been living and working in Israel for the past 32 years, is a historian who specializes in Jewish-Christian relations.

He is also the host Jerusalem U's education series "The Israel Course," which is a special course designed for Christians to learn about Israel.

Referring to the Pope’s visit earlier today to the tomb of Theodore Herzl, who was a Jewish journalist and writer credited as the father of modern political Zionism, the rabbi explained that Pope Francis’ act of laying a wreath on the tomb is an important symbol in bridging Catholic-Jewish relations.

Calling to mind how Pope Paul VI made the first effort to reconcile divisions between the two faith traditions and how these were solidified by their successors in releasing Jews of former claims the Church had made against them, principally that they were guilty of Jesus’ death, the rabbi noted that “what Pope Francis has done now is the next step.”

“He’s actually come out and said that God never rejected his relationship with the Jewish people and through the Jewish people we basically learn about God, which is a very proactive theological statement.”

Observing how the pontiff has also met with many leaders of other faiths during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Spiro noted that historically the trip is part of a long process of attempting to stifle drawn out conflicts, which he described as being primarily of a religious nature.

Breaking down the complex history of interreligious relations within the State of Israel, Spiro explained that “they call it the Holy Land,” and that the term holy is “originally connected to Judaism.”

“From Abraham onward beginning with the temple on Mt. Jerusalem this has been the holiest spot in the world for Jewish people,” and is “the direction toward which all Jews in the world pray,” he noted.

Since Christianity and Islam “are historically offshoots from Judaism,” there are also strong but different connections for both within the Holy Land, the rabbi continued, stating that “the Christian connection is probably more direct” because “Jesus was Jewish and he lived in Jerusalem, he preached in Jerusalem, he visited the Temple Mount and the Christian Bible contains the Jewish Bible.”

However in the seventh century “a story of Muhammad’s midnight ride was connected” to the same zone, so ever since then “the temple of Mt. Jerusalem where the gold dome stands is the third holiest site” for Muslims.

“So it’s holy to the three great monotheistic faiths,” he observed, explaining that despite the fact that “there is complete freedom of worship and access to holy sites” in Israel, the situation is “extremely complicated because it has to be balanced again by security issues” such as ongoing terror attacks.

The difficulty for Christians, he explained, is that “they’re kind of tugged between the Jewish-Arab-Palestinian-Islamic conflict” since most living in the Holy Land are “are racially-ethnically Arab, and therefore they’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place.”

“If you know anything about the Middle East in general the most endangered Christian communities are” there he noted, adding that although Christians are “stuck in the middle,” the tension is “primarily between Jewish national association with Israel and Islamic tradition which is newer and not as central religiously.”

“Like everything in the Middle East it’s extremely complicated. It’s partially a religious conflict, it’s partially a political conflict,” but “the underlying roots in my opinion are really religious roots.”

This, Spiro went on, is because the Islamic world view believes “that Islam is the final religion and the world should recognize that,” and because of this they do not “recognize sovereignty of people over land that was formerly owned by Muslims.”

“It’s something not allowed in their theology. That which was Islamic must remain Islamic,” he stated, recalling how Israel was previously controlled by Muslim dynasties for more than 1,300 years.

“This territory was controlled by different Islamic dynasties and in 1948 when Israel was declared a state” the Arab nations did not accept the partition vote, so they “declared war on the State of Israel and we’ve been in this constant state of conflict ever since,” Spiro observed.

So the Pope’s “intentions are fantastic,” he said, explaining that although he is skeptical “of people’s goodwill overcoming the bad blood and the history in there…it’s a nice move on his part.”

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