May 30 2014 £1.50 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
THE CATHOLIC HERALD
A HISTORIC HOLY LAND EMBRACE
Pope Francis raises new hopes for peace in Middle East after extraordinary 55-hour visit
BY ED WEST
POPE FRANCIS embraced a rabbi and an Islamic leader in a historic moment in inter-religious relations at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday.
Francis, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud hugged in front of the ancient wall as they fulfilled a long-held dream of making a joint pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The three Argentine friends appeared deeply moved and Rabbi Skorka said: “We did it!”
The embrace was just one of many poignant moments during Francis’s 55-hour visit to Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel. When he arrived in the Holy Land on Saturday the Pope greeted the “many Christian refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq” living in Jordan and celebrated Mass in Amman International Stadium.
He then prayed by the banks of the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptised, and blessed refugees, as well as orphans, the sick and disabled.
On Sunday Francis celebrated Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem. On his way to the Mass he made an unscheduled stop at the separation barrier that divides the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank from Israel. He rested his head on the concrete wall that was daubed in graffiti reading “Free Palestine” and “Bethlehem look like Warsaw Ghetto”.
At the end of the open-air Mass, Francis said: “In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President
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Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.” Within an hour both leaders had accepted.
Later on Sunday the Pope flew to Tel Aviv, where he was greeted by Mr Peres, and travelled to Jerusalem to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s landmark meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I. That encounter led to the lifting of the mutual excommunications that formally divided the Eastern and Western Church in 1054.
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a common declaration that looked forward to the day “in which we will finally partake together in the Eucharistic banquet”. The two leaders prayed together in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus. This was the first time a pope and an ecumenical patriarch had prayed together publicly in Jerusalem.
On Monday, Francis made an unscheduled trip to a memorial for Israeli victims of terrorism and became the first pope to lay a wreath at the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
Another moving moment came when the Pope was introduced to six Holocaust survivors in a ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Shoah. He kissed the hands of each of the survivors.
Joe Gottdenker, who was rescued as a baby by a Polish Catholic couple, said he “was moved much more than I had even anticipated”.
“He took my hand in his two hands and kissed my hand. I was dumbfounded. I never had a rabbi do that,” he said.
Pius XII’s Cause is blocked by a lack of a miracle, says Francis BY STAFF REPORTER
THE CAUSE of Pius XII has stalled, Pope Francis has told reporters during an in-flight press conference on his return to Rome from the Holy Land.
A reporter asked Francis whether he would declare the wartime pontiff Blessed.
“The Cause for Pius XII is open,” he replied. “However, there has been no miracle, and if there are no miracles it is not yet possible to go ahead.”
The Pope canonised St John XXIII and St John Paul II on April 27. Earlier this month the Vatican announced that Francis would also beatify Paul VI on October 19.
The press conference came at the end of a day during which the Pope visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims.
In 2012 an exhibit at Yad Vashem that criticised Pius XII’s wartime record was updated to offer a more nuanced assessment of the pope’s actions during the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people.
Pope Francis also told reporters that he would meet a group of sex abuse victims for the first time at the Vatican in June.
He confirmed reports that the Vatican is investigating charges that its former secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, over the alleged mishandling of £12 million from Vatican bank accounts.
He announced that he would visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January. The Associated Press reported that he would spend just two days in the Philippines and would visit the area devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
Francis also insisted that the synod of bishops on the family in October would not focus exclusively on debating whether the remarried should be allowed to receive Communion. “The issue is much broader,” he said.
First Lady’s letters pulled from auction BY STAFF REPORTER
A CATHOLIC college will no longer auction letters sent by Jackie Kennedy to an Irish priest.
The Vincentian-run All Hallows College in Dublin had announced that it was selling the correspondence between Mrs Kennedy and Vincentian Fr Joseph Leonard, a priest who had befriended her when she visited Dublin in 1950.
The letters detailed Mrs Kennedy’s struggles with her faith after the assassination of her husband, US president John F Kennedy, in 1963.
Last week college officials said the letters were “being withdrawn from auction” at the direction of the college and the Vincentian Fathers.
The statement added that the college and the Vincentian Fathers were “exploring with members of Mrs Kennedy’s family how best to preserve and curate this archive for the future”.
Mrs Kennedy wrote the letters between 1950 and 1964. She credited Fr Leonard with her return to Catholicism.
X-Men star considered becoming a priest at 16
BY KITTY TEAGUE
ACTOR James McAvoy has said that he felt drawn to the priesthood as a teenager.
The 35-year-old actor, who stars in X-Men: Days of Future Past, told Closer magazine that he “considered becoming a priest very seriously”. Having been brought up a Catholic in the Drumchapel area of Glasgow, Mr McAvoy said that he thought about becoming a missionary. “I wanted to travel the world – and as a young Catholic it seemed the easi-
est way,” he said.
But the star of Atonement and The Last King of Scotland said his thoughts of the priesthood were short-lived.
“By the time I turned 16 I realised I was only in it for selfish reasons,” he said. He added that he was becoming tired of journalists asking him about the priesthood. “I get that all the time,” he said.
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