May 11, 2009

The Pope Arrives in Israel

By Joel C. Rosenberg

Pope Benedict XVI is in the epicenter this week, visiting the places where Jesus, the prophets and the apostles walked and taught, meeting with regional leaders, and calling for peace. He arrived in Israel this morning after visiting Jordan for the last several days, where he met with King Abdullah II and toured Mount Nebo where Moses viewed the Promised Land and went to heaven to be with the Lord forever. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres greeted the Pope during an elaborate ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

The trip comes at a sensitive but important moment in Jewish-Catholic relations. The Vatican has made a number of missteps in recent years. Nevertheless, the Netanyahu government has literally rolled out the red carpet for the Pontiff. The Prime Minister and his team hope to steadily improve ties with the Catholic community, increase Catholic tourism to the Holy Land, educate Catholic leaders and lay people about the challenges facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and build both sympathy and support for the Jewish people among a billion Catholics worldwide.

In the last several decades, evangelical Christian relations with Israel and the Jewish community has improved much much more rapidly and deeply, but it is important that Catholic ties improve as well. Let’s pray that this trip is a significant step in the right direction.

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