Vatican Corner 04-14-2019

Pope Francis visited the Kingdom of Morocco on the weekend of March 30, 2019, continuing to build bridges between Chris ans and Muslims. He met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI and together they signed an appeal for Jerusalem. The appeal recognized the “uniqueness and sacredness of Jerusalem”, calling for the city to be preserved as a “common heritage of humanity and especially for the faithful of the three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It called for Jerusalem to be promoted as a “meeting place and symbol of peaceful coexistence, where mutual respect and dialogue are cultivated.” Francis also visited the small Catholic community in Morocco who were commemorating along with the en re Church the 800th anniversary of the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan al-Malik al-K’mall. It was a peaceful encounter in 1219 between a Chris an and a Muslim during the warfare of Fifth Crusade. The encounter ended with St. Francis being allowed to continue his travels to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage of Chris ans to the Holy Land is a longstanding tradition. When Roman emperor Constantine ended the policy of Chris an persecution and legalized the Chris an religion in the year 313, there is evidence that travelers started to journey to Jerusalem. Since that me, sites associated with Jesus’ life have drawn: Crusaders, explorers, archaeologists, tourists and the faithful, to come for a visit. Famous historical authors such as Herman Melville and Mark Twain wrote about their pilgrimages. Today traveling to the Holy Land is a multi-billion-dollar global industry. Popes have dispatched to the Holy Land envoys, emissaries, and Crusader armies, but no Pope had ever traveled to Jerusalem to walk the stone streets and follow the footsteps of Jesus, unti l the Blessed Pope Paul VI did so on January 4, 1964. He surprised the world by visiting the Holy Land and it was also the first me a reigning pontiff had ever flew on an airplane. He met there with Athenagoras, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the head of parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Pope’s meeting and rescinding of the excommunications of 1054 was a significant step in improving relations between the East and West Chris an churches. Pope Paul VI was also the pope who founded the annual tradition in the Church of the Good Friday Collection for the Holy Land. He said it was created “not only for the Holy Places but above all for those pastoral, charitable, educational, and social work which the Church supports in the Holy Land for the welfare of their Chris an brethren and of the local communities.” While thousands of pilgrims from abroad flock to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other biblical sites, the Holy Land’s native Chris an communities are being depopulated. They are caught between the much-larger Muslim and Jewish populations and face land seizures, arbitrary detentions and collective punishment which come with the Israeli occupation. Again this year in a letter from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri has made an appeal for funds to help support the Catholic schools, parishes, and religious education in the Holy Land. At stake are ancient unique institutions and communities, and the mission of the Franciscan friars in the Holy Lands, as Rev. Sidawi says “is to maintain our roots alive in order to keep the whole tree alive.” In most Catholic parishes around the world on this upcoming Good Friday the collection will be used to aid Chris an parishes and their outreaches in the Holy Land.