Will Pope Francis Recognize Palestine on Trip to Israel?

Religious Jews Already Protesting Upcoming Papal Visit

Getty Images

By Nathan Jeffay

Published May 16, 2014, issue of May 23, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Pope Francis will highlight the progress in Catholic-Jewish relations by traveling with Argentinian rabbi Abraham Skorka, and will build ties with Muslims by having an Islamic scholar accompany him. But the main focus will be on internal Christian relations.

The Jerusalem visit was organized in honor of the 50th anniversary of the meeting in Jerusalem between Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, a turning point in relations between the Vatican and the Orthodox churches, which the patriarch leads. The pope’s emphasis is on his three meetings with the current patriarch, Bartholomew. His trip will be less public and involve fewer opportunities for rank-and-file Catholics to see their leader than the two recent papal visits.

“In 2000, when John Paul came, it was a pilgrimage during which he met local people, whereas in 2009 it was labeled a pastoral visit with an effort [by Pope Benedict] to meet the local people,” said Father Athanasius, a high-ranking Jerusalem-based Franciscan cleric. “The main thing this time will be his meetings [with the Orthodox Christians].”

But with the Catholic establishment in Jerusalem already vocal on the recent spate of “price tag” attacks — acts of vandalism carried out by far-right Jews on churches and other Christian sites in Israel — it is believed that Pope Francis will probably weigh in on the phenomenon. The Vatican’s Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the attacks on May 11, saying they “poison the atmosphere” ahead of the pope’s visit, and questioned Israel’s commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Hebrew-language death threats scrawled on Christian sites are not the only thing raising hackles on the ground. Also adding to the tension is the fact that Jerusalem municipal officials have asked a Franciscan center in the Old City to take down banners welcoming the pope during his trip — even though, as the Latin Patriarchate pointed out, it is common practice around the world to put up such banners ahead of a papal visit.

Some expert observers further say that Pope Francis won’t be able to resist some kind of postmortem for the peace process. Yvonne Friedman, an expert in Jewish-Christian relations at Bar Ilan University, is “almost sure” that the pope will directly or indirectly pin the blame on Israel for the collapse of negotiations. But Neuhaus played down the speculation. “I don’t think the pope is coming to teach anyone a lesson,” he said. “He’s not going to blame anyone.”

Meanwhile, some Israeli rightists are more concerned with negotiations over territory than with blame or banners. On May 12, around 200 Orthodox Jews demonstrated on Mount Zion in Jerusalem against a deal — rumored to be sealed during the papal visit — that would give Catholics increased rights on the mount or even place it under the Vatican’s sovereignty.

Christians believe that Mount Zion was the site of the Last Supper, and on May 26 the pope will hold a mass in the room where this event supposedly took place. The Vatican claims that it should be able to hold more ceremonies there than it is currently permitted. The Cenacle room lies above what Jews believe to be the tomb of King David, and many Israeli Jews, especially on the right, are opposed to any increased Catholic control there.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has denied that a deal with the Vatican over Mount Zion is in the works. But the fact that Israel’s President Shimon Peres reportedly said a year ago that a compromise had nearly been reached, and that this is the most high-profile Vatican-Israel meeting since, is keeping the rumor alive.

Friedman thinks that the Mount Zion issue is “bound to be part of the trip” and that the visit may present an opportunity for an already agreed-upon deal to finally be made public. “Whatever has been decided, they have kept secret,” she said.

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.