The Pope and Palestine

james

Pope Benny

 Here is an article about Pope Benedict XVI’s impending visit to Israel and to the Palestinian territories, and about the various controversies which are consequently arising.  I am going to summarize the article and then provide a few words of commentary.  If you have read the article feel free to skip the summary.

Article Summary Starts Here
Many Israelis are upset that back in January, the Pope un-excommunicated bishop Richard Williamson, wh0 has several times denied the severity of the holocaust, and that gas chambers were ever used by the Nazis.  Objectively speaking, the excommunication and subsequent recension have very little to do with the holocaust and almost everything to do with saying Mass in Latin with one’s back turned to the congregation.  But, this act by Benedict along with his short time as a member of the Nazi Youth organization, AND his defense of Pope Pius XII’s behavior during WWII have led many to suspect the Bavarian pope of Anti-Semitism. 
This trip to Israel is an incredible opportunity for the Pope to set the record straight.  But, it’s a little more complicated than this.  The Pope is also going to visit Bethlehem-behind-the-wall where Palestinians are eagerly expecting him.  They’ve even built him an amphitheater with a section of the Israeli-built wall as the backdrop.  Israeli authorities are threatening to tear the amphitheater down, so it seems that the Pope is going to give his speech at a nearby school instead. 
Article Summary Ends Here; Commentary Follows

This visit of the Pope deserves the attention of American Christians of all denominations.  This event has great potential, not just for controversy and subsequent controversial blog posts, but potential for either a huge advancement of the Kingdom of God, or a huge step back. 

What the Pope says while he is at the official holocaust memorial in Israel will be widely scrutinized and may either make or break the Vatican’s relation to the Israeli state.  What the Pope says in Palestine may have more far reaching implications for the future of Christianity’s witness of the Gospel, and mandate to spread the Kingdom of God. 

Somebody in the Christian world needs to stand up for the Palestinians!  First of all, there are thousands of Palestinian Christians whose lives are made hell by Israeli occupation on the one hand, and Muslim extremism on the other.  It is a travesty and a grave sin indeed that we in the West have abandoned our brothers and sisters in Christ in favor of either indifference or blind Christian Zionism. 

Don’t misunderstand me, violence is wrong, and I hope the Pope squarely and definitively condemns Hamas’ acts of terrorism against Israel.  But if he does not also acknowledge and condemn the shocking acts of terrorism, injustice and bigotry that have been perpetrated against the Palestinian people he has failed the liberating message of the Gospel. 

What Israel is doing to the Palestinian people is wrong.  It breaks the covenant that Abraham, Moses and David made with God in so many ways that I think it would even take the prophet Jeremiah by surprise if he were around to condemn it.  But what is more detestable is the way that Western Christianity has condoned Israel’s actions simply because of a unique combination of flawed eschatology and skewed OT theology. 

Because of the Holocaust controversy it is, in many ways, unfortunate that the Pope has chosen to go to Israel and Palestine at this time.  Any critique that he might make of the way Israel has treated our brothers and sisters in Palestine might just be construed as more anti-Semitic sentiment from an already suspect Pope.  On the other hand, it is possible that he may not condemn injustice at all.  That would be hugely disappointing, and not very helpful, or faithful.  He may not be the best man for the job (given the controversy), but he’s already bought his plane tickets, so I pray he does the right thing. 

This visit should highlight the fact that more Christian leaders need to go Palestine and stand in solidarity with our Christians sisters and brothers there.  Even those leaders who don’t fall into the “creepy Christianity” camp (i.e. Christian Zionists, crazy “prophetic” book-and-DVD peddlers, late-night TBN Bible expositors, etc.)   have failed to adequately speak up on the behalf of Palestinians like they should.    So, I say: God Speed Pope Benedict!  Be a true vicar of Christ and stand up against oppression and injustice in Palestine!

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Amen!

    “Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit (and give words to the Pope), that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen” 79’BCP

    Reply

  2. I always worry about such trips, but I recognize that they must be made.

    On the Jews – the pope’s speech will be made on the grounds of Yad Vashem, but he will not visit the adjoining museum — in protest of an exhibit that alleges that then-Pope Pius XII did nothing to stop the extermination of the Jews. So while I think he will clear up any confusion on his personal position on the Holocaust, he’s not going to back down on Pope Pius XII. Its a push at best going into it.

    Muslim town of Aida,and the nearby refugee camp are again already a push at best, because it looks like the Pope caved to pressure from Israel to speak at the amphitheater, but I do think he will address the suffering of those in the camps, without accusing Israel directly. Same with visiting the mosque in AMMAN Jordan.

    One has to remember that the Pope holds two roles (actually three in this case) religious leader of Catholicism, patriarch of the west (in reference to Orthodoxy) and held of Vatican State for politics.

    I think the political end of it will be to try a press for more religious freedom for all, but especially for all Christians in the middle east. This would be applied to both the Jewish leadership and the Muslim ones.

    As you mentioned the forgotten middle eastern Christian faces very difficult challenges. This trip is to bring up to the young and encourage them for the future. IOW its planting seeds of hope in the Gospel.

    Although I don’t know for sure the US & Europe are pressing for forced “health care options” which the Vatican has always be opposed to and the Vatican was able to stop the Cairo agreement in the past. I think perhaps this is part of the plan again to unite Islam and Catholicism against the secular humanists on population control.

    The one aspect I fear for is if the visit to the Dome of the Rock. This is a charged place in the best of times, it will be the place where all three religions converge. Its interesting that the Pope has also said he is going as a pilgrim. I know many American Christians pray for a rebuilt temple, but I doubt this is what the pope would be praying for in that place. More likely he’ll be praying for the peace btwn brothers (muslim,jew, and christian).

    Reply

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