Five journalists from various Catholic publications are in Tel Aviv for a tour of the Holy Land that coincides with the historic visit of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew. This is a crossroads where Christians, Jews, and Muslims, among Druze and other peoples, struggle to maintain identity in the heart of a geopolitical hot spot, the Middle East.
At the crossroads, for thousands of years, goods from north, south, east, and west have been brought by their people for trading. We can scarcely imagine amidst today’s global economy how crucial such a place has been in this world’s region. The struggle over oil, a development really of the past 100 years, might give us a hint of how important location is, and how important geography is, in the relations of people.
At this crossroads, Christians, with differing ideas on how to live their faith, still struggle to rediscover the unity that was the hallmark of the earliest Church. Thousands of years later, there are many divisions. It’s a very, very long story. We’ll be hearing more about it this week, and about Pope Francis’ efforts to build bridges.
Clearly, hopes are high for the pope’s visit. We saw the poster (at the top of this blog) in the doorway of the Cana Catholic Wedding Church in Cana, built on the traditional site of the place where Jesus performed his miracle(people buy wine there for wedding gifts—see Jn 2:1-11).
What are the hopes? Keep the world’s attention focused here. Send a strong signal of Christian unity. And send a message of interfaith goodwill (Rabbi Skorka and Omar Abboud, both Argentinian friends of Pope Francis, will be joining him in Jerusalem). The Vatican press office, in fact, is underscoring how important interfaith dialog is to this entire visit.
For more on John’s trip, go to St. Anthony Messenger‘s Facebook page.