We stop this blog to give you a perspective on the Pope's visit to Jerusalem since it is in the news right now.
I decided to stay in Jerusalem a few extra days so I could get a sense of the historic visit of Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There was plenty of buzz about the pontiff's first visit to the Middle East. Jerusalem was using it as an opportunity to boost tourism, the media was looking to see if the visit would help move the peace process forward and the Israeli people were wanting to hear him on a number of issues.
The Pope had angered many in the Jewish community earlier this year when he reinstated the ex-communicated Bishop, Richard Williamson. The Bishop is a holocaust denier and that doesn't bode well for the Catholic/Jewish relationship. The initial reports from his landing in Israel were positive. The people seemed pleased that he forcefully attacked the rise in antisemitism in his opening remarks.
The trouble started during the remarks of the Pope during a ceremony at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust Museum. Though some people might call it semantics, people were disappointed with the fact the Pope didn't come out stronger about the holocaust and many people were hoping to hear him say that Vatican should have done more during World War II to protect the Jewish people. A leading Jerusalem-based Rabbi said in the media that he was disappointed in the Pope's language. He was critical in the Pope's use of the word "killed" instead of murdered and not specifically mentioning the Nazis. In the end, the media and many political leaders were looking for more and short of an apology of the Vatican's lack of action, they might not have been satisfied.
Also, many people are feeling very pressured by the renewed push for the "two state" solution in the peace process. The past week the Obama administration reiterated their support of it, the UN renewed their call and the Pope added his voice to the chorus. The media and the new conservative administration feel that the calls are premature and they added this to their concerns with the Pope's visit.
The Pope and Singh Around the World
I was hoping to get a glimpse of the Pope during his two days in Jerusalem. My hostel was in a prime location because it was in between two sites that the Pope was going to be visiting while he was in Old Jerusalem. The day before the Pope arrived in the country, the presence of the police and military was remarkably increased. People were asking questions on where you were going and asking for passports or identification. The day that the Pope came to our side of the city, we were contained to our hostel and one block of businesses. We were not allowed to leave that area for four hours. Our hostel has a good balcony and we were hoping to see the motorcade as they came through. Unfortunately, when they came through, there was no "Pope-Mobile" but rather cars with tinted windows. We did see a number of the delegation and security forces but no sighting of the Pope himself.