Rabbi: Welcome to Israel, Pope Francis

In a few weeks, at the end of this month, Pope Francis will follow in the footsteps of his immediate two papal predecessors, by making a religious/diplomatic pilgrimage to the Holy Land to visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Pope John Paul II did so in March 2000, and Pope Benedict visited in 2009. I was privileged to participate in welcoming the Pope on both occasions.

However, this time, I will be out of the country at the time of the visit, so I will welcome Pope Francis on this blog.

Who would have imagined that the third pope in 15 years will be visiting Israel — the nation state of the Jewish people — and Palestine and Jordan? This would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago.

Why is he coming to the region at this time? What message will he bring with him for us?

The official answer is not directly related to Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Pope’s office in an official press release has described the visit to the Holy Land as “a pilgrimage of prayer” and has said that the “main purpose” of his three-day visit is “to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which took place on 5 January 1964 exactly 50 years ago.”

Athenagoras’ successor as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), Bartholomew I, who is recognized as “first among equals” in the leadership of the 250 million-member worldwide Orthodox Church, attended the inauguration of Francis as Pope in St Peter’s Square on March 19, 2013 — the first time in over a thousand years that a leader of the Orthodox Church attended this inauguration.

Now, he has invited Francis to join him in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first encounter between a Pope and an Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople since the Great Western Schism in 1054. Continue reading.

Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish serves as the founder and director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel. Born and raised in the U.S., he has lived in Jerusalem for 34 years. 

Source: HuffingtonPost

Image: Betham

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