Common Hope Is Peace for Troubled Homeland
We are awaiting the Pope like children await their father,” says Eli Hajjar, thus summarizing the Christians’ sense of expectation at Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land.
The Holy Father arrived today in Israel, after spending a busy three days in Jordan. He does not return to Rome until Friday, scheduled to give 29 addresses during his weeklong pilgrimage.
Hajjar, a 21-year-old student at Bethlehem University, is part of a parish group that gives catechism classes to kids and does social activities for the elderly.
Many of the members of his group are now involved in preparing for the papal trip, particularly the Mass the Pontiff will celebrate Tuesday in Gethsemane.
“We are decorating the streets the Pope will pass by,” Hajjar said. “Some are participating in the choir that will sing during the liturgy. […] All of us are praying that the Pope has a tranquil trip.”
“Today the Christians, and especially the Catholics,” he continued, “live the great hope that the Pope will bring peace again to our lives. Also Jews and Muslims, for their part, hope to better know this great man who is the Successor of Peter.”
Bethlehem is also awaiting the Pope with hope. Vicenzo Bellomo an Italian layman from the Fidei Donum movement, has been in the Middle East for three years, working for the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in the region of Bethlehem.
“The visit to Bethlehem,” he explained, “is a visit to a closed-in surrounded territory. From here, one can only leave with permission. It’s a bit like visiting the imprisoned, though it is a very special site.”
The Pontiff will celebrate Mass there on Wednesday.
Bellomo said there is a “very beautiful hope, with great enthusiasm and great confidence in this Pope.”
“Words of truth are hoped from him, about Gaza and about the situation of the Christians here,” he added.
The last large Mass on Benedict XVI’s schedule will take place in Nazareth on Thursday, his last full day in the Holy Land.
For that celebration, too, the climate of expectation is notable. Discalced Carmelite Father Renato Rosso is organizing the buses for the faithful of the St. Joseph parish, the only Latin-rite parish in Haifa, including a group of about 100 Catholic Action youth.
“For the majority of them this is the first occasion not only to meet the Pope, but also to come into contact with Christians from diverse parts of the world,” he said.
And again, peace is the principal hope for these Christians.
“Also on the part of Jews and Muslims,” Father Rosso reflected, “this trip is seen as a sign to reaffirm the will for peace and to encounter a solution for the great problems of the Palestinian community.”