Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Holy Father visits Bethlehem

The whole papal visit has been so politicized but it was probably inevitable given the realities of the area today. The pope is a messenger of Christ and therefore peace and neutral to any political faction. But there is so much hatred between Palestinian Arabs and Jews that any action or statements by the Holy Father is bound to dissatisfy either or all the factions. This is a trip fraught with thorns and landmines (figuratively of course).

The visit to the Palestinian Bethlehem was a sounding board for the Palestinian movement. Good or bad? I don’t know but it is clear that we seldom get to hear the Palestinian side of things in the media; it is Israel that always gets the whole sympathetic ear.

If the pope represents anybody (in the human sense) in that land today it is the Palestinian Christians, a minority lodged between the Muslims Arabs and the Israelis. But the visit will probably cause the Israeli government’s displeasure and may an obstacle to the Church goals to administer the Holy sites.

Our Lord was born in this now bustling city when it was a small little town two thousand years ago. When our Lord was born Israel was a complex landscape of occupying Roman armies, a tyrannical Jewish King, different Jewish sects and minorities of foreigners all embroiled in a geopolitical game of power. How little things have changed!

We have been trained to sympathize with the Jewish state by years of media and propaganda, but it is very interesting to hear the Palestine side for a change. I believe that the Israelis have a right to their state and have the weight of history and Tradition. But the Palestines also have a right to live in peace and have their rights. The Holy Father is navigating a very difficult situation.

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