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No. 6403


May 82009£1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)

Israel ‘may hand holy places over to Vatican’

Benedict XVI challenges new priests to reject worldly attitudes


ISRAEL should hand over six Christian holy sites to the Vatican, Israeli President Shimon Peres has reportedly said ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land.

Israel’s army radio reported that Mr Peres had urged the government to hand over the sites, which include the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Coenaculum on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, the traditional site of the Last Supper, Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Mount Tabor, and the Church of the Multiplication on the Sea of Galilee.

Israeli and Vatican officials have been arguing about ownership of key holy sites since diplomatic relations were established in 1993 and the dispute is one of the obstacles preventing the upgrading of ties. The report said the president had been pushing for the handover as a compromise, saying negotiations had dragged on too long.

The nuncio to the Holy Land, Archbishop Antonio Franco, said a papal visit was not the time to “quarrel over this or that”.

Many in Israel oppose the idea, including interior minister Eli Yishai. He said: “Every concession like this limits the Israeli government’s ability to function as a sovereign government in the area.”

Tourism minister Stas Misenzhnikov said: “If we were sure that this great gift to the Christian world would bring millions of Christian pilgrims here, then we would have a good reason to consider it but since we are not certain that this will happen, why should we hand out gifts?”

The Pope arrives in Jordan today and will travel to Israel on Monday

for a five-day visit where he will hold meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

There will be heavy security when the Pope visits Mount Precipice, near the predominantly Israeli Arab town of Nazareth, where the Pope will celebrate an outdoor Mass. Pamphlets have been distributed in some towns calling for protests because of the Pope’s Regensburg lecture in 2006.

Mr Peres’s office denied that any pressure had been exerted on government officials to relinquish sovereignty on any sites. Ayelet Frish, his spokesman, said it was simply requested that those involved make “progress on the issue as a goodwill gesture before the Pope arrives”.

The most important site is the Upper Room, where the Last Supper is believed to have taken place. It is also thought to be the burial place of kings Solomon and Hezekiah, and is in the same structure that houses King David’s tomb, and has served as a synagogue and a mosque in the past. There are still Muslim inscriptions on the wall.

All the buildings have been under Israeli control since 1967, when East Jerusalem and the West Bank were captured from Jordan.

But while the Church has wanted the sites for some time, the biggest obstacle may be other denominations which also claim them. The Waqf Muslim authority may also make demands of its own. The Vatican proposed running the Upper Room in 2005 and wants permission to celebrate Mass there every morning. If Israel did relinquish control all maintenance work would have to be approved by the Vatican.

Editorial Comment: Page 13

Newly ordained priests lay face down as they pray during a ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI inside St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday


POPEBENEDICTXVI has ordained 19 priests and urged them to make sure their ministry is not contaminated by a worldly mentality.

Priests should dedicate their lives to prayer and service, and never lose sight of the self-sacrifice of Christ, the Pope said during the liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica last Sunday.

The Mass marked the annual celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The new priests, who will serve in the Diocese of Rome, included 13 from Italy and six from other countries on four continents.

After prostrating themselves on the floor of the basilica as a litany of the saints was chanted, each of the candidates knelt before the Pope as he imposed his hands on their heads, in a key part of the ordination rite.

In his sermon the Pope quoted the First Letter of John, which contrasted the spirit of the Gospel with the spirit of the “world”, a term he used to refer to all that is hostile toward God.

St John said that “the world does not know us” because it did not know God, a lament that remains true today, the Pope said.

“It’s true, and we priests experience this: the ‘world’, in John’s meaning of the term,

does not understand the Christian, does not understand the ministries of the Gospel. In part because in fact it does not know God, and in part because it does not want to know him,” he said.

Accepting God would place this worldly attitude in “crisis”, the Pope said.

“Here we need to pay attention to a reality: that this ‘world’, in the evangelical sense, threatens even the Church, infecting its members and the ordained ministers themselves.

“The ‘world’ is a mentality, a manner of thinking and living that can pollute even the Church, and in fact does pollute it, and

therefore requires constant vigilance and purification,” the Pope said. The Christian vocation, he said, is to be free from evil and different from the world, though living in the world.

The Pope emphasised the centrality of prayer in the life of each priest. This prayer should be Christ-centred, and its highest form is the Eucharist, he said. From prayer comes the effectiveness of all other priestly ministry, he said. “The priest who prays often and prays well becomes progressively expropriated from himself and increasingly united with Jesus, the good shepherd, and the servant of his brothers,” he said.

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

The Pope, who recently turned 82, looked good during the two and a half hour Mass. It was his last major liturgy before his departure today on a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Afterwards, at his noon blessing, the Pope urged the entire Church community to pray for priestly vocations.

The Pope recently proclaimed a year for priests that will run from June 2009 to June 2010.

Vatican statistics have shown that the number of priests and seminarians in the world is increasing generally, but not as fast as the general Catholic population.

Papal trip will cement goodwill between faiths, says leading rabbi


ALEADING rabbi has said Pope Benedict XVI’s Holy Land visit is certain to consolidate the historic reconciliation process between Catholics and Jews.

The Pope’s trip, which includes five days in Jerusalem, will demonstrate the Vatican’s respect for the state of Israel as part of Jewish identity, said Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Rabbi Rosen, writing in L’Osservatore Romano , said: “In visiting Israel and demonstrating the Holy See’s respect for the Jewish state, reinforcing the impact of the pioneering visit of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI will undoubtedly further advance the historical process of CatholicJewish reconciliation.

“Pope Benedict XVI will be walking in the footsteps of his great predecessor both literally and figuratively. Pope John Paul II –very much the hero

of Catholic-Jewish reconciliation in our times –understood full well that the visit of a pope to Israel has a special significance of its own.”

Rabbi Rosen said that even if the visit of Pope John Paul in 2000 was described as a pilgrimage “it was still a state visit with all the relevant trappings” and recognised the relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Pope Benedict will be demonstrating more than goodwill to the six million Jews who re

side in the Holy Land today, he said. The rabbi said a papal visit could give wider expression to principles and values familiar to dialogue experts.

“Most Israeli Jews and especially the more traditional and observant among them have never met a modern Christian,” he said. But when they saw Pope John Paul during his visit they realised he was a “sincere friend”, he said.

Report: Page 3 Feature: Page 8

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Pope urges children to preach the Gospel

Vatican tried to stop me, says film director


POPEBENEDICTXVI has invited children as young as eight to “enthusiastically speak about Jesus” so as to bring the light of the Gospel to those who do not know him.

The Pope urged children to be missionaries in a telegram sent on his behalf by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to the Third Missionary Encounter in

Spain, held last weekend. Some 4,500 children, aged eight to 13, participated in the event, sponsored by the Spanish chapter of the Pontifical Missionary Works and the Spanish bishops’ conference. A parallel event was organised by the Christians Without Borders association.

The Holy Father told the youngsters to “grow in friendship with Jesus, the friend who never fails, through prayer and the sacraments, so as to speak of him with enthusiasm to those who have perhaps not had the joy of knowing him”.


THEDIRECTOR of Angels & Demons has tried to pick a fight with the Vatican by saying it hampered the filming of the new Dan Brown film.

Ron Howard claimed the Vatican obstructed the filming of the prequel to the Da Vinci Code in which the Vatican exerts its secret influence everywhere. He

said: “When you come to film in Rome, the official statement is the Vatican has no influence. Everything progressed smoothly, but unofficially a couple of days before

we were to start filming in

several of our locations, it

was explained to us ...

that the Vatican had exerted some influence.” His claims

were dismissed

as “a publicity stunt” by the Vatican.

Report: Page 4


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